§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
I do not offer any apology to the House for mentioning to-day the subject of foreign policy, since the Order Paper and Supplementary Questions show the deep and keen interest questions of foreign policy not only evoke in this House, but in the country at large. That is not to be wondered at since, of all the nations in the world, we are the most deeply interested in matters of foreign policy. We live by our export trade, and if our export trade fluctuates down to a low level, as it is, unhappily, at the present moment, to that extent, and in the most acute manner, every cottage home is deeply concerned in foreign policy. We have no hope of anything approaching the stable revival of our trade unless confidence is established. Confidence can only come from security, and security in the end is very largely dependent upon good government. There are many topics which are open to those who are interested in this wide and varied subject, and I am quite certain that, before this Debate is over, some references will be made to the question of Armenia. For my own part, I express the fervent hope that the fate of the Armenians is not going to be allowed to drift along until some further massacre of the old type once again reduces those unfortunate people to the position in which they were when they lived under direct Turkish rule. I hope that that question will not be lost sight of by His Majesty's Government, as although it is not so thoroughly and well organised as we might wish in this House, it is no less a grave matter of public, and, indeed, international concern.
To-day there were many questions addressed to the Leader of the House with regard to the Conference at Genoa, and, quite naturally, he was not in a position to give all the information that the House desired. I do not know 986 whether the Prime Minister, when he comes here on this day week, will be able to give us all the information the House desires in order to arrive at a proper decision on the Vote of Confidence which is then to be moved, but I think, before next Monday arrives, the House is entitled to have some definite, clear information upon which it can give its vote. We know what will happen next Monday. The Prime Minister will come down here with all his unequalled gifts of raising issues which are not absolutely relevant to the question which is before the House, and, before the Debate has gone far, the personality of the Prime Minister will be the supreme issue of the day. What we ought to have is not questions about the personality of the Prime Minister, or his relations with his colleagues in the Cabinet, but what we, ought to know is what is going to be discussed at Genoa. We have had a very large number of conferences already. I started reckoning them this morning, and I stopped when I got to 11 or 12, dreading I should get to 13. What has been the result of them all? Have we pacified Europe I Have we lessened unemployment at home? Is there any better accord amongst the nations? The answer must be that these conferences, so far, have had unsatisfactory results.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
My hon. and gallant Friend asks mo to make, and I make, an exception in the case of Washington. The result of that certainly was very satisfactory, and afforded a real hope of better things. But, as somebody added, it was a Conference which the Prime Minister did not attend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It is perfectly true.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
One of the reasons, perhaps, was that the Minister who did attend had nothing else to do and was able to devote himself to this single but difficult issue. That determined concentration did produce a result which we all acclaim as satisfactory, and which we are all sure will continue to be progressively fruitful. The question of the Genoa Conference 987 seems to have been pitched on the top note. In the Press, from the platform, and turn where we like, we have most extravagant anticipations as to what is to be the result of the Genoa Conference. Let us hope that one-tenth of these anticipations will be achieved. If that be so, a very great work will have been done for the pacification of the world. We want, however, to get a proper sense of perspective with regard to Genoa, and I think we shall achieve that by trying to find out what is likely to be done. We have some knowledge as to what is not going to be done. We are credibly informed that the great question of disarmament does not arise. We know that reparations with regard to Germany will not be dealt with, and the question of the revision in other directions of the Treaty of Versailles will not be raised. I understand, however, that the question of unemployment may be solved by what happens at Genoa. If you are going to leave out the question of reparations and all that it involves, and if, as I understand, the settlement of Allied debts is not going to be raised, what is going to be done for the revival of international trade 1—because until we do settle this question of reparations, until we do get to close and definite work with regard to disarmament of the land forces, and until we do get some sort of settlement as to how we are going to deal with Allied debts, business will never revive in anything like a stable and progressive manner. Therefore, let us consider the matter a little more calmly and find out what all the fuss is about Genoa. What is going to be discussed? Disarmament out of the way, reparations out of the way, Allied debts out of the way, all the many questions with regard to the Treaty also put on one side—what remains?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
There is a very important fact remaining, and that is that for the first time representatives of Russia are to meet round a common table with representatives of the other countries of Europe. I say at once that I am glad of it. Think what you like about the Government of Russia, it is the only Government that is there, and you must deal with it. Whether it is going to be recognised as the de jure or de facto Government, it certainly is the 988 only Government that Russia has, and you must recognise that fact if you are going in the future to have any relations at all with Russia. It is no use building up wild hopes about setting up trade relations with Russia. It will take a very long time indeed before you can get any trade going with Russia. The condition of chaos there is indescribable. Famine has devastated thousands of square miles, and such Government as there is does not function in vast portions of that great territory. It is very much more important for the re-establishment of Europe to get Germany going. Every business man knows that, whatever our ideas about Germany might have been, that great country was our best customer before the War.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Yes, in Europe. Germany acted as the great distributing agency for vast portions of our goods. There are still goods from this country left in Russia which found their way there viâ the great German exchange, and only when Governments realise what business men know and have known all these years, that the main thing to-day is to arrange on a business footing this question of reparations with Germany, to get her into the League of Nations, and to get her to function once again as a proper entity in the comity of nations, will hope really arise for the re-establishment of trade in Europe and, indeed, in many parts of the world. It is the only practical way to do it. Whatever our feelings may be about Germany, that is the clear duty before statesmen in all parts of Europe.
Let us examine for a moment what may be still left on the agenda for Genoa. There is the question of general financial arrangements, always assuming that you must not touch the questions of reparations or Allied debts. I suggest to the Government that they have already had a lot of information on this point as the result of the Conference at Brussels one and a half years ago. That was a conference of very able men from nearly all the countries of Europe. I do not think that Russia was represented, but Germany certainly was. After very careful examination, they came to certain most useful recommendations. They not only gave advice, but they made very 989 definite resolutions. I have in my hand a cutting from "The Times" of 8th October, 1920. How many of these pieces of advice and these practical suggestion—have been carried into effect? I will just give the House one or two points of advice:The advice includes the balancing of budgets by the reduction of expenditure, especially on armaments, and by increased and ruthless taxation; … production to be increased by the freeing of commerce as soon as possible from control, and impediments to international trade to be removed; all classes to work harder—and to talk less. I think it was:The practical suggestions include the forming of an international organisation for the benefit of States desiring to resort to credit for the purpose of paying for essential imports; the nomination of a committee of legal experts and business men to assist in the carrying out of the present system of furnishing credits; the extension of the existing system of export credit and insurance.The general impression- is that, in the presence of divergent views, the committees have been very successful in securing unanimity, even although some of the resolutions have thereby become flabbier than they might have been.That ground has been covered. Therefore I take it that there must be something very remarkable which the Brussels Conference has left out, and which, to our mind, is not yet apparent, because the business side seems to have been covered by Brussels or eliminated by being put out of order. There must be some wonderful secret. What is it? We are entitled to know, and not only this House but the country is entitled to know. I am unable to say what very remarkable secrets are locked in the breast of my right hon. Friend. He must know. We are within a week of it, and he has been the chief confidant and the chief colleague of the Prime Minister. There he sits, and he knows all about it. [HON. MEMBEBS: "Does he?"] I read in the Press lately that at Genoa they are going to lay up treasures in a political heaven, and yesterday there was an outburst of pagans of anticipation of a new and glorious Europe which is going to be, created at Genoa. There was put into my hands an hour or two ago a manifesto to the electors of East Leicester by a gentleman who may, though I do not know and cannot tell, very shortly be a Member of this House. This is what Mr. Marlow, who is described here as the Coalition 990 Liberal candidate—[HON. MEMBEES: "What is that?"]—says:A few days after East Leicester votes the Prime Minister will ask the House of Commons to give him authority to go to Genoa and there to apply the only remedy that can cure unemployment at home and produce stability and peace abroad.What is it I Then ho goes on to say:Filled with anxious hope, the representatives of the nations will make their pilgrimage to Genoa, a pilgrimage for the healing of the people. Let us send our great national lender there with the firm support, solid confidence, and rich encouragement of a united nation behind him.You cannot get a united nation nowadays by perorations. The nation wants facts. It knows that you are not going to discuss reparations, or disarmament, or the revision of the Treaty, or any question of finance, but there is some secret locked in the breasts of the Prime Minister and of my right hon. Friend which is going to heal the nation. Let us get down to the real facts of the situation. The country is thoroughly sick of this sort of thing. What is wanted is not a manifesto to electors, not wonderful perorations, not manœuvres with this section and that section, but straight politics and good government. That is what is wanted, and Europe will never be stabilised or move forward to a better day until all these strategic and tactful manœuvres in one way or another are put an end to.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I understand that on Monday next the principal business to be discussed will be whether the Prime Minister can still rely upon a sufficient majority of the Members of this House to carry on the Government of the country.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Well, he can rely on the vote of the hon. Member for all reactionary purposes, but I shall have to see the terms of the Resolution first, and it is possible that I shall reserve my vote. It is possible for us to-day on this Consolidated Fund Bill to discuss policy in the interests of the nation and not in the interests of the Coalition, or of the Prime Minister himself. Following on what my right hon. Friend the Leader has said, I propose to ask one or two questions without exactly treading in the same path. If we divide to-day it will not be, a mere 991 Maurice Division to be used at the forthcoming appeal to the country, and, therefore, I hope, we shall have a straight reply from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to the questions which are going to be put to him, so that we can vote for or against the Second Reading following on whether we are satisfied or not.
We have heard a good deal about Cabinet responsibility. We have been told that this Cabinet is united, is harmonious, and that every Member of it fully approves of every step taken. Therefore I am quite certain the Leader of the House can give us a great deal of information—and we have a right to have it! Here are one or two of the questions I wish to put to him. In the first place, with regard to the personnel of the British Mission to Genoa, so far as we are told, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be there. Might I ask for what reason the name of the Lord President of the Council has been left out? As has been said by the previous speaker, that right hon. Gentleman has to his credit one highly successful congress, one that stands out from the remainder like a beautiful tree growing up in a stunted and blasted forest, one or two branches perhaps may be a little withered or crooked, but there is achievement, there is something that delights the eye, and the Washington Conference has been ratified by the American Congress, and approved in this country, and I believe by France and Japan. Why is he not to go? He would take a prestige with him. He would meet many of the statesmen of Japan and France that he met at Washington, and I ask this, especially as Lord Riddell is going, and he was at Washington with the Lord President of the Council. Why are not these two great statesmen, Lord Riddell and the Lord President of the Council, going to Genoa?
Secondly, there is a very notable omission in the personnel. Why is the Secretary of State for the Colonies not going? Surely he ought to be there to see how matters are going? Consider how well the Secretary for the Colonies and M. Trotsky would get on together. All this waving of swords, and talking about wading through seas of blood and thrones of skulls! It is all the same. It is only the reverse side of the same medal. They would get on admirably together, so that 992 I think it is a great pity the Secretary for the Colonies is not going to Genoa, partly for his education and partly in order that he may see that the leaders of the present Government in Russia have not horns growing out of their heads or tails peeping from beneath the skirts of their garments, and also in order that they may see that this super-journalist and statesman, who now presides over the Colonial Office, is not so very different from themselves and that he has not horns growing out of his head.
I say, however, quite seriously that the good results that will flow from the Secretary for the Colonies attending Genoa would be considerable—quite considerable! It would give a little polish to his international education in respect to the peoples of Eastern Europe, and would do him a world of good. Might I also ask whether it has yet been decided to invite any representatives of organised labour to attend Genoa? We have heard a great deal about conventions and conferences of business men and financiers—very right and proper I—with the Minister of War and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other parties in Paris. I have no doubt they have achieved very good results; but has organised labour been consulted or asked to take any responsibility at Genoa, and, if not, why not? So much for the people who are not going to Genoa. Now with regard to the people who are going. I want to say this very seriously indeed. I think it is a great pity that the Lord President of the Council is not going, for the reason that I am now going to state in a word, and that is that the Prime Minister at the present moment is not persona grata with France. I do not want to go into the reasons, but the facts are that they are knocking heads together. When a country sends someone to conduct delicate negotiations you try to pick a person who is personally on good terms with those with whom he is to negotiate. I feel, for that reason, it a great pity that the British Delegation is not going to be strengthened in the way I suggest. I quite agree that I would much rather prefer to see a totally different team going to Genoa in a few days' time than this Government can provide at all. I would rather see a team going to Genoa with absolutely clean hands, and that cannot be said of anyone connected 993 with the present Government. Also, I believe that those chosen, with one or two exceptions, are badly in need of a rest, for mental if not for physical reasons. I have great sympathy with them. I said with one or two exceptions, but I notice my hon. and gallant Friend opposite, the Under-Secretary of State for India, and I do not include him. He does not need a rest just yet, I think, but a great majority of the present members of the Cabinet are tired, and it is high time we got fresh blood. I heard an answer by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to a supplementary question put by my hon. Friend behind me as to whether the Government is still content with the policy given out in a Memorandum issued by the Prime Minister at the Peace Conference. The Leader of the House said they still, and always have, acted in the spirit of the Memorandum. I have never heard anything so cynical in my life—never! I trust the Prime Minister at Genoa will refrain from speeches similar to some of his previous speeches about Bolshevism that we have heard both at that dispatch box, and in the country. I might, in reference to questions that are, and are not, to be discussed, follow what my right hon. Friend a moment or two ago has said, and I might ask whether the British Government, in raising these various questions, have any fixed policy?
First of all, you are going to meet at Genoa representatives of the Russian Government and of the Japanese Government. At the present moment the Japanese troops are in occupation of Russian soil. In the North they are in occupation of Saghalien Island, which was left to Russia by the Treaty of Portsmouth, and has been looted by Japan. She has taken advantage of Russian weakness to seize and occupy the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok and the greater part of the Maritime Province of Siberia, and to support with the bayonets of her soldiers a dummy reactionary government which could not last five minutes if Japanese support were withdrawn. We are assisting to keep this policy going by sending every reactionary Russian officer we can get hold of either in Persia or at Constantinople—the remnants of Wrangel's armies—in British ships at the cost of the British taxpayer, the money being voted by this House of 994 Commons? My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows the thing perfectly well. Is that question going to be raised, and can you expect peace and good relations to be established until it is cleared out of the way? I do not know whether it was raised at Washington. I have asked questions about it, and have received evasive answers. We were told that assurances were given by the Japanese. They are not good enough. The Japanese troops are occupying territories which is the lawful property of the Russian people whatever Government holds out at Moscow. Again, what is the use of our talking about the necessity of balancing the Budgets of the people in Germany when every ten days the German has to pay gold to the extent of £1,550,000? What is the good of going to Genoa and starting a discussion on balancing Budgets, stopping inflation, and subjects of that sort, when at the present time the German Budget for 1922 is 83 milliards in paper marks, and the Allies' demand as against that internal Budget of 83 milliard marks is 135.5 milliard paper marks. The only way the Germans can possibly pay is by keeping their printing presses going, and the result is to make the exchange worse and worse with more and more business loss to this country in consequence.
We have had answers to-day by the President of the Board of Trade pointing out the great advantage German dyes are having over ours in Brazil because of the rate of exchange? What is the good of talking about this if this great subject is to be left, as it is, in welter and slough? When we do receive this amount of money which we are getting every 10 days, we are not even paying for the Armies of Occupation. In spite of this, we have had a demand from America for £50,000,000 for their Army of Occupation, and I think they can show a case for it, as I read Reuter's telegram. Might I make a suggestion to the Leader of the House in reference to the payment to America I When she makes demand again for payment, let the right hon. Gentleman make reply and ask how she will take it. We have already had a reference to Peace Treaties. I wish to remind the House of one or two things, especially in reference to this Memorandum that has been disinterred and published. On 16th April, 1919, after the issuing of the Memo- 995 randum, but before the publication of the peace terms, the Prime Minister said:I tell the House at once that, if on reflection, and if after examination of the problem with the statesmen of other lands—who have not had to fight an election, and therefore could take a calmer and more detached view of these problems-—if, after coming in contact with them, I had arrived at the conclusion that I had gone too far, and pledged the Government and the country to something that I could not carry out, I should have come down here and said so, because it would have been folly, even for an electioneering pledge, to imperil people of Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1919; col. 2949, Vol. 114.]Has the Treaty of Versailles gone too far, and have the people of Europe been in peril I There is only one answer to that question. If they are not in peril why are you going to hold a Conference at Genoa? The Prime Minister has not carried out that pledge, and he should have told us boldly the reason why, or he should have resigned or asked authority for an entirely different policy. He has not had the moral courage to do that. We have had these endless conferences ending largely in misleading official communications. We have heard a good deal about a pact with France, and I understand she has now undertaken to take part in the Genoa Conference. If we have promised France a military alliance?—you can call it a defensive alliance if you like-—as the price for taking part in the Genoa Conference, the Government have given a promise to deliver goods which they cannot deliver, because such a pact, without the support of the democracy of this country, will not be worth the paper it is written on. The Government has no business to give such a promise without consulting the people of this country, or even this House of Commons, and unless the Government obtain a mandate for this, they are misleading the French people by promising such a thing.
Might I make this statement as well: It will be no good trying to tinker with the exchanges, because that is starting at the wrong end of the problem. You might just as well put ice on the chest of a fever patient in order to reduce his temperature. You may be able to take exchanges and solidify them for the moment, but it is no cure. The uncertainty of exchanges is only a symptom of what is going on in Europe. On this point I can refer hon. Members to the 996 Brussels Conference at which the British representatives were all men well-known in banking and commercial circles, and they were fully equalled by the bankers and financiers sent by the other nations who were parties to the Brussels Con ference. That Conference pronounced very strongly on the question of exchanges, and against hoping to get any permanent cure by such means.
I want to ask a question with regard to the Central International Corporation which is being formed with its office in London. It is what we call the £20,000,000 International Trust. I hear that, apparently, all that has been arranged is simply the ordinary banking business, on rather conservative lines, that any acceptance house or insurance house would undertake in any of the big capitals of Europe to-day. I shall make one or two suggestions on something much wider than that. I believe that the majority of the smaller and younger nations of Europe are very earnest and very keen on this Genoa Conference. I happen to know that the Poles are sending a very strong Mission to Genoa. I have had the privilege of knowing one or two of the members and they carry great weight as economists and business men. I know that the Polish Government is taking Genoa most seriously, and will be most disappointed if it is not a success. The same applies to Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and many of the other smaller States, who are looking to Genoa as a means of deliverance. I hope we shall have a clear British policy which will not be confined to secret intriguing and bargaining behind the scenes. Might I suggest what should be done and what should be the British policy?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
No, not the Kenworthy policy, but I hope it will be the business policy of the Liberal party. First of all, we have to settle this question on entirely different lines. One of the most interesting suggestions I have heard is the funding of the German internal debt into sterling and taking over that debt by the creditors of Germany, the interest to be paid by Germany. The whole internal debt of Germany reduced to Swiss francs is not a very formidable amount, and it should not be difficult to float bonds to that amount, and use them as reparations, 997 the Germans paying the interest as they are doing at the present time.
Do, for Heaven's sake, let us bend ourselves to induce free trade, and let us do our best to get the economic barriers broken down between the peoples of Europe. The Brussels Conference unanimously agreed to this policy, and it was unanimously recommended by all the delegates, and the only reply of the British Government was to introduce the Reparations Recovery Act and the Safeguarding of Industries Act. That was their reply to the financial Conference at Brussels. That was authorised by the League of Nations, but that League is apparently never taken seriously by the Government. Every means should be used to induce the peoples of Europe to break down artificial barriers to trade, to restore freedom of communications, and particularly the abolition of the passport visé system which is hampering commerce to-day. If our Government would lead the way in this matter, I am sure it would be very fruitful of good results.
Secondly, whatever undertakings we have given on this matter I think the Peace Treaties should be discussed, and they ought to be revised. Two of them are waste paper already, namely, the Austrian Treaty and the Treaty of Sevres. The others are nearly so. We ought to stop these reparation payments except for the reconstruction of the devastated provinces, and if France is not willing to take material and labour for that purpose, then she should reconstruct her provinces herself. You ought to withdraw and demobilise the armies of occupation in Germany.
Recognise the Russian Government, and make peace with them.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Of course. On the 10th of February, 1920, the Prime Minister said:There is a suggestion made from another quarter—'Make peace with the Bolshevists.'Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: Hear, hear!Mr. LLOYD GEORGE: At any rate, there is one supporter. The first objection to that is this. Until you receive assurances—I do not mean verbal assurances, but assurances from observation and experience—that the Government which is in control in Russia has dropped its methods of barbarism, and that it is governing by civilised means, there is no civilised community in the world which 998 will be prepared to make direct peace. There is a second objection. There is no Government in Russia which can speak for any defined area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1920; col. 43, Vol. 125.]I do not know that much has happened since to alter that opinion. Does the hon. Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) still think that we ought not to make peace with Russia? I think we have been brought round now to sec that the policy for which I was jeered at by the House at that time is likely to be adopted. I do not want to say, "I told you so," because that is always easy, but for Heaven's sake do not let the Government be frightened by the newspapers from meeting the Russian Government on equal terms. The Russians are not a defeated nation, and they have managed to hold their own, in spite of famine and desolation, and let us see if we cannot bring them to a better frame of mind, and try a little sympathy and help.
Might I suggest that a great international loan might be floated of bonds to be backed by all the nations concerned who are prepared to back them in sterling or Swiss francs. I believe the United States would accept those bonds on the market, and they could be used to create credit for supplying machinery and fertilisers and food for the famine areas of Russia, and this scheme should apply to Poland, Bessarabia and Eastern Galicia. We could arrange to send locomotives, machinery, and other goods to induce the peasants to part with their corn.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Yes, all the articles I have mentioned are a drug on the market at the present time and the warehouses are full. There are locomotives at Woolwich that cannot be sold, and I know that the makers of agricultural machinery have been working short time for a long time. If, during the late War, Poland had wanted transport, clothing and boots for her soldiers, if she had wanted motor cars and munitions and guns, there would have been no question whether she could pay for them. They would have been ordered from the contractors here and sent over in ships to the nearest point to Poland, and any Government which had failed to see that that was done would soon have been thrown out of office. That was during the War.
999 War is not over yet; it is still going on, although with a different enemy. That enemy is want, hunger and despair. It is a very formidable enemy which is stalking across the plains of Eastern Europe, and we have got to fight it. We welcomed one or two shady Allies in the late War in our fight against the Central Powers, some of whom we would be only too glad to be rid of. We helped them without stint and without hesitation in the fight against the Central Powers. Now, however, we have a much more difficult and elusive enemy to fight, and any nation which will help us should be welcome. Above all, we must get re-constructed the transport which is needed for Eastern and Central Europe, as without transport trade cannot be carried on. There is enough work for all the factories in Europe in turning out rails, locomotives and rolling stock for years to come, and unless we can find some means of producing the goods which are wanted and sending them where they are wanted in Europe, the sickness, of which the rates of exchange are only a symptom, will continue, our unemployed will continue unemployed, and the financial drain upon the country will become such as to drive us into bankruptcy. I do not want to end in too pessimistic a tone. This Genoa Conference should have been held long ago. The original Peace Conference should have been a Conference of all the nations in the War, whether defeated or victors, and it should have been held for the purpose of preventing a common ruin. This proposed Genoa Conference is three years too late. I do not believe the present Government can produce delegates who can go there and make it a success, but, at any rate, if they are successful they will receive here every support and praise.
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)
The two speeches to which we have just listened struck mo in a very different way. I am rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) should have chosen the subject he did for his remarks. I cannot express surprise at the intervention of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), because hardly any Debate takes place in this Chamber without his intervention; and, in the second place, whatever the subject of discussion, 1000 he always has opinions which he thinks it of consequence to the country to state. Generally his observations are dogmatic, whatever be the subject with which he deals. I noticed to-day that in a metaphor which he used—a very dangerous practice in which to indulge—he so strongly intermixed his medical views as to drive the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Dr. Murray), who was sitting near him, straight out of the House. I am not competent to express an opinion on the medical side of the question, neither do I profess to know a very great deal about international finance. But I think the hon. and gallant Member's remedy for the financial condition of Europe is one calculated to shock professors of finance quite as much as his medical opinions will shock professors of medicine. What did he suggest as his contribution towards solving the present situation—that we should take over the internal debt of Germany, and convert it into sterling, dollars or Swiss francs. What we were to do with it when we had taken it over did not appear to me from anything he said. We were, he suggested, to issue a loan under an international guarantee, but he expressed no very clear view as to what other nations would contribute, nor whether the guarantee was to-be a separate guarantee of a certain amount of money by each country, or a joint guarantee which might land us into liability for the whole amount. I do not think I need deal further with the hon. and gallant Member's solution of our difficulties.
I turn now to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles. I am surprised that he should have chosen the Genoa Conference as the subject of his speech, not because that subject is not well worth consideration by this House, but because the Government has promised to afford a special opportunity for its consideration next week. Again and again the Opposition have complained that we have not given special opportunities for the discussion of some part of our policy, domestic or foreign, and when we have pointed to an occasion like the Consolidated Fund Bill as a suitable occasion for discussing these matters, they have said that what they want is a definite day—a definite resolution and a definite issue. We have promised to give the day and the resolution, and now my right hon. Friend is already trembling in his shoes at the 1001 prospect of having to meet the Prime Minister in the Debate. He said so. He is so frightened that he cannot wait for a week hence, when the Prime Minister will be present, because of the disturbing personality of the right hon. Gentleman. But he selected, as a less disturbing occasion, the opening of our Debate to-day, to be utilised for a discussion at large, critical but unconstructive, on the situation of Europe and our general policy. I am not going to anticipate next week's discussion. It would be perfectly absurd to do so.
But I wish to make one or two observations in reference to what the right hon. Gentleman said. Does he want the Genoa Conference to be held, or does he not? I invite him to make up his mind on that point before next Monday. Everything he has said until this afternoon has been in the direction of urging conference and co-operation. Now, because we have been the prime movers in securing such a Conference, he is doing everything he can to crab it, and to weaken the authority of the Ministers who will represent this country at the Conference. Does he want it to be a success? I invite him to find that out before Monday. The right hon. Gentleman said that extravagant expectations had been aroused by this Conference. He added that he had read in some organ of the Press—he was not quite sure whether it was on a Sunday or a weekday—that the question of unemployment was to be solved by this Conference. I agree with him that extravagant expectations of this kind are wholly misleading. The question of unemployment is not to be solved by a single conference. It is not to be solved by the act of any individual Government. It is a process which, under the most favourable conditions, will take time, and much time, for its achievement.
If we have promoted this Conference, it is not with the idea that the Conference will find a remedy for all our ills; it is not with the idea that, in one day or in one month, you can so alter the conditions of the world as to bring back prosperity where there is now distress, that you can set trade going in countries where the machinery of trade has been wholly destroyed, or that even if Governments turn over a new leaf, and be wise to-morrow where they have been foolish in the past, they can undo by a 1002 single act a wrong system of action, which has resulted in the destruction of the security and confidence upon which trade depends, and out of which alone any revival of trade can spring. We go to Genoa with much more modest expectations. The right hon. Gentleman asks why it should be held, and reminds us that we held a Conference in Brussels?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Not for one moment did I suggest that the Conference should not be held. I said: "Let us know what is it going to be held about."
Is that all that the right hon. Gentleman said? In that case I have nothing more to add, except that that is the, subject of next Monday's Debate.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has dealt with the very reasonable questions put to him by my right hon. Friend in a way which, coming from anybody except himself, I should have been inclined to think was almost discourteous. After all, they were reasonable questions which were put, but the right hon. Gentleman tries to suggest that because the right hon. Member for Peebles is anxious to know what is going to be considered at the Genoa Conference, he must, therefore, be taken to be against the holding of that Conference. That, in my view, is not a reasonable criticism. I have no right to speak for anyone but myself, but I certainly cannot say it would be desirable for the Government at the present moment to withdraw from the Genoa Conferences now that it has been agreed upon and now that invitations have been issued by the Italian Government to many Powers to attend it. I understand from the Press that already from 30 to 40 Powers have accepted the invitation, and it would, therefore, be quite impossible now for the British Government to say that they will not take part in the Conference. I do not conceal from the Government my own view, for what it is worth, that it is a pity that the Conference was not summoned under the ægis of the League of Nations. I have always thought that, but it does not follow that I would like to see the Conference put an end to at the present time. Quite the contrary. If the Prime Minister or anyone else thinks that something can be done to heal the wounds of Europe by a fresh Conference, the condition of Europe is far 1003 too serious for anyone to obstruct any such measure. My right hon. Friend's statement was a very reasonable one, that it would only be a step in the direction of reconstruction, and that you could not hope for any miracle from a Conference. All that part of my right hon. Friend's observations is quite sound, and I most heartily concur in it, but it is a great pity that the language which he uses in this House is so different from the language which the supporters of the Government use outside. I quite agree that the Cannes Memorandum was a crushing condemnation of the conduct of the Allies which has led up to the present position in Europe. It certainly did not minimise the terrible financial and economic condition in which Europe found itself. But I am not referring now to the Cannes Memorandum, which, after all, was not the work of the supporters of the Government in this country. I am referring to such documents as that which was read by my right hon. Friend, namely, the election address of the Coalition candidate at East Leicester, and to what I read every day in the newspapers which are supposed to draw their inspiration from the Government. Such enthusiasm and conviction are there shown that I thought there must be some secret which no one knew, or some wonderful panacea which the Prime Minister was going to announce when he got to Genoa and which would set the whole of Europe on its legs again. I quite agree that the account given by my right hon. Friend is very different, but I do venture to press upon him that it is very desirable that we should know, not merely this day week, but at some time before that, what really is the programme that is to be discussed at Genoa. The Government are coming down to this House—they have not made up their minds yet as to the form of the Resolution—with something which is to give them consolation and comfort, and to give consolation and comfort in other parts of the world also—
§ Lord R. CECIL
That may be one of the incidentals; I do not know; but the objects are understood to be twofold. The first is to approve the Genoa Con- 1004 ference, and I should not think that that would excite a very great deal of controversy in this House. The second is to express confidence in the Government, and that will excite a great deal of controversy. As to the second part, I quite agree that we do not want any papers; we have all of us, or almost all of us, made up our minds about that. As to the Genoa Conference, however, if the House of Commons is to be treated seriously, and if a real opinion is to be obtained from it of serious international value—if that is the real object of the Government, and if it is not merely a party, Parliamentary electioneering move—the Government must do its utmost to put the House into a position to form a considered and genuine judgment. It is really not treating the House fairly to say, "We will tell you nothing, not even what is to be discussed at Genoa," and for the Prime Minister to come down on Monday next and say, "We want confidence in the Government and confidence in Genoa. We make a speech to you here and now, we give you no opportunity of considering what it all means, and we ask you to vote here and now on the subject." I think it is very important that we should know.
I tried to ascertain from my right hon. Friend by question and answer this afternoon, but he did not see his way to reply. Is it the question of disarmament? Is it the question of reparation payments from Germany? Is the question of Allied debts to be considered, and, if so, to what extent? Is it the question of the revision of the Treaty of Versailles? Of course I do not ask my right hon. Friend to answer these questions "Yes" or "No." One has to do one's best to obtain information in any way one can, and as far as I can gather, none of these questions are to be considered at Genoa, so that I do feel, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles, inclined to ask, "What is it that you are going to talk about?" The question of the economic condition of Europe was very fully and instructively discussed at the Brussels Conference 18 months ago, and important recommendations were made as to what ought to be done to put Europe on its legs. It is quite true that those recommendations have been imperfectly carried out here, and, as far as I know, they have been very little, indeed, carried out in the rest of Europe. One of them is 1005 disarmament; another is the destruction of international barriers of trade; another is public economy in all Departments; and I can understand a Conference being summoned for the sole purpose of putting pressure on the various countries to carry out those recommendations. If that be the purpose, tell us. It is a very simple one, we shall understand it, and I believe the great majority of the House will approve. What is the reason for this hide-and-seek in the matter? I cannot understand why the Government should make a secret of it, and why they should not tell us frankly and immediately.
Some of us thought that they had indicated something of the purpose of the Conference by circulating the Paper which was presented to the Conference at Versailles on the 25th March, 1919. It is a very remarkable Paper. In its first part it contains a number of admirable sentiments. It points out the great danger of thrusting under alien rule minorities of a different race. It points out that that is very dangerous in regard to Poland, and in regard to the Magyars. I am not aware, however, that these admirable sentiments found any place in the Treaty of Versailles. It points out the great importance of disarmament, with regard to which there is a very eloquent passage pointing out that it is not enough to disarm Germany unless the rest of Europe be disarmed as well. Turning to the actual proposals attached to the document, I find that all that is suggested there are proposals which are already part of the Treaty of Versailles. I cannot say that that is very impressive, and it does not seem to carry us very much further. If all that is intended when we go to Genoa is to do what we have already done at Versailles, I do not think it will improve our position as far as disarmament is concerned. Then there is the suggestion that Germany should come into the League. Why that was proposed on the 25th March, 1919, and afterwards abandoned, I do not know. Then there is the proposal that there should be a Russian settlement, as to which nothing was done.
I notice that these proposals were made by our chief representative at Versailles on 25th March, 1919, and that the greater part of them were not carried out in the Treaty. Is that a precedent for Genoa? It does not seem to be a very encouraging 1006 one, and I trust that that manœuvre, at any rate, is not going to be repeated. I also notice that in this document there is not only no definite proposal as to disarmament, but that two proposals are made which have done, as I think, very great harm in Europe, and which I cannot think are intended to be regarded as a precedent at Genoa. One is the statement that Germany is to pay full reparation to the Allies, and that, since the amount greatly exceeds anything that she can possibly pay, she is to be saddled with an indeterminate amount—the very vice for which we have suffered ever since—and that that is to be continued for years. The other suggestion is that she is to hand over, not only the Kaiser, not only those who were guilty of horrible cruelties to our prisoners in Germany, but "all individuals responsible for the War." A more fatuous proposal was never made in international politics. If that is put forward as an indication of what our policy is to be at Genoa, I regard Genoa with very great misgiving, and I trust—
I do not know whether the Noble Lord heard what I said as to the reasons for the publication of this document. I am sorry to interrupt him, but the whole of his speech turns upon the assumption that the document is produced to the House of Commons at this time as a preliminary to Genoa. That is an entire misconception. The document was published by Signor Nitti in his book, and published by him without his having asked the leave of the Prime Minister or the British Government. Members of this House asked that the document should be presented to the House, and I promised some little time back that I would present it accordingly. I may say that it was not published fully in Signor Nitti's book, but very large extracts were given from it, and we thought it only right that it should be laid before the House.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I have read Signor Nitti's book. The greater part of the preliminary memorandum was published, but none of these specific proposals. I was trying to find some indication of what was to be considered at Genoa, but it appears that this document, which I thought did give some indication, is now to be cast aside as merely accidentally published at the same time, or nearly the same time, as the Genoa Debate is to take I place. We are, then, absolutely in the 1007 dark as to what is to be done at Genoa, and that is a position in which the House of Commons ought not to be put before this Debate takes place. There was one observation which I confess I heard with a certain amount of regret from my right hon. Friend. He suggested that the object of my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles was to weaken the authority of the British Government—or, at any rate, that that would be the effect—when they attended the Genoa Conference. This looks exceedingly like a repetition of manœuvres that we have had before. I hope we are not going to have a repetition of the attempt to use the international difficulties of Europe and of this country in order to obtain a vote of personal confidence in the Prime Minister. That is a manœuvre which can be practised once, and perhaps twice, but it will be rejected, and rejected with contumely, if it be again repeated.
§ Sir MARTIN CONWAY
I never listen to one of these general Debates about the condition of Europe and the world without a feeling of sadness at their insufficiency. We always hear a number of suggestions and criticisme—suggestions as to how the miseries which the world suffers can be done away with, and criticisms of everything that has ever been tried for producing that effect. Everyone seems to forget that there has been a great war; that some £40,000,000,000 of capital has been annihilated; that, consequently, the world is suffering, and will continue to suffer, do what it may; and that the only cure is long and hard work, great and persistent saving carried on year after year, and self-abnegation by individuals and classes, until this destroyed capital is slowly piled up together again. Therefore it is to me almost a pathetic thing to listen to these well-intended suggestions of how the disease of the world is to be removed, when it can only be removed by reversing the process by which it was brought on, i.e., by recreating the capital which the War destroyed. I have not intervened to add my little1 quota to this volume of suggestion and criticism, but I desire to approach a purely practical matter which affects the comfort of a number of individuals. I need hardly say I refer to the passport and visa discomfort. We cannot make Europe a happy continent again in five minutes or 1008 five years or fifty years, but we can remove a discomfort from a very large number of respectable and harmless people who are penalised day after day and month after month by what I consider an entirely unnecessary and vicious system of passport and visa regulations. What is the primary idea of passports, and what have they grown to be? A passport is, in fact, in the present day, nothing but a verified portrait of an individual, stating that that portrait represents such and such a definite individual and that he is a respectable citizen of the country issuing the passport. That is, and may be, a very useful instrument for all manner of purposes, and it will probably be many years before any attempt is made to do away with passports. In fact, I think their use might be increased, and they might be made useful for many other purposes than that for which they are now actually employed.
A visa, on the other hand, was originally merely this: that a traveller, when he arrived at a certain place, showed his passport and had it stamped, and that recorded where he was and where he had come from, and possibly where he was going. It was nothing in the world but a record of his movements. The visa has developed in recent years into a much more elaborate instrument. It is a kind of second passport issued by the foreign country to which the traveller is going, in a sense accepting him at the valuation given him by the country issuing the passport. That is a very much more difficult thing to elaborate and to work. As a matter of fact, of course, in actual practice a visa is issued, in 99 cases out of 100 probably, without any sort of inquiry into the character of the persons to whom it is given. An ordinary traveller is put to immense inconvenience in many countries to obtain a visa. Very often he has to wait for hours in a queue, or he goes to an office and finds that, though the Consular officer ought to be there within certain advertised hours, he is not there, and there are all kinds of inconveniences and difficulties which are multiplied whenever he wants to get a visa in the foreign country to which he has already travelled. It is bad enough in London, but fifty times worse when the traveller has gone away without knowing exactly where he was going, what route he was going to travel, and has to get a new 1009 visa. Travellers are not merely, nor in the main, people wandering about for pleasure. Most of the time they are men going on some kind of business, and for difficulties to be put in the way of travellers in general reacts upon the business of the country and upon the activity and efficiency of business men. The Bolshevist, the anarchist, and revolutionary, whom it is the object of visas to keep out of the countries that desire not to have them within their frontiers, can almost always penetrate the visa screen. There is nothing that can be more easily organised by revolutionary bodies than a route through the defending wall of visas and passports. While it is relatively easy for revolutionaries and dangerous criminals to get through this fence, it is always a trouble for honest men.
In the Swiss Bundesrath, on 23rd March, there was a Debate on this very question of passports and visas. Switzerland is a country which respectable people from all parts of Europe and America often desire to visit. Three or four times a year there are floods of people passing into Switzerland and returning to their homes. One of these times is approaching when thousands of Britons will desire to go for a short holiday to the Alps. They must have these quite unnecessary visas. The Swiss Government, as appears from the Debate to which I have referred, was perfectly ready to abolish the visa mutually with Great Britain, indeed I think they took the initiative about a year ago of proposing to the Governments of, I think, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark the mutual abolition of visas. What the answer of the other countries to that proposal was I cannot say, but I know that Great Britain refused and, I understand from the statement of the Swiss Minister of Justice, still maintains that refusal. I desire with all the emphasis I can to urge upon our Foreign Office, and still more upon the Home Office, that the time has come when, as far as Switzerland and those other States which were, approached by Switzerland are concerned, the visa might be abolished. There are, no doubt, countries with which we do not want to facilitate intercourse too much. But the Scandinavian countries, the Low Countries, France and Switzer- 1010 land might surely be regarded as in a sane and sound condition. Switzerland does not encourage the presence of revolutionaries within her borders. Indeed, Switzerland is even more efficient than we are in keeping them out, and there is no earthly reason why people coming from Switzerland should have to have visas in order to come through France or Belgium to England.
Another point I desire to make is this. A passport at present lasts for two years. That is an unnecessarily short period. A passport is nothing in the world but a verified portrait of a certain individual, with an official statement that he is a respectable citizen of his country of origin. There is no earthly reason, then, why passports should not last as long as the photograph is likely to represent the person portrayed. If, for any reason, a man's aspect changed so much that the photograph no longer resembled him, that would be a sufficient reason for his getting a new passport, but, as long as anyone can identify him from the photograph, the passport ought to remain valid, because it verifies him, and that is the only use a passport has. I urge very strongly upon the Government that the time has come when the annoyance and trouble of the passport system should be done away with. A commercial traveller came to me the other day who had been for a long journey on the Continent, covering some months, and he showed me his passport. He had to have two. The first was entirely used up. They were large sheets of paper some two square feet in area, covered on both sides with visa stamps. Every one of those stamps had been the cause of some trouble. Many had taken two or three, or even four, days to get. There must have been 40 or 50 on that passport. He travelled, of course, from one frontier to another, going back and forth in the course of his business, and he told me the annoyance, delay, expense, and burden attending on these visas was absolutely intolerable and that the time he thus lost would have been worth to him a very large sum of money indeed. I wish to press upon the Government very strongly that the time has come when this matter ought to be taken into serious consideration, and the annoyance that citizens of this country are put to in obtaining visas from certain foreign countries should be terminated.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
I propose to discuss only one point bearing upon the Genoa Conference. I think there is no Labour Member who will not, on the one hand, welcome the Conference, and on the other, deplore the manner in which the agenda for the Conference is being restricted. It is perfectly plain that there is very little hope of recovery in Europe at present unless we are very clear in our own minds what we want in the way of economic remedy and unless we are perfectly fearless in stating the faith that is in us. Beyond all question, one of the most important difficulties with which the Genoa Conference will be confronted is just that difficulty of the restriction of trade from the impediments to free commercial intercourse which is above all necessary if we are going to see any reconstruction worth the name. Let us take, for example, some of the recent discussion in Europe, and ask ourselves candidly whether it is likely to lead to any satisfactory result at Genoa at all. I read a few weeks ago a speech which the Belgian Prime Minister delivered to a gathering of experts who, I understand, were to proceed from Belgium to the Conference, and he laid it down in that direction to his experts that they were to be very careful to steer clear of references to reparations. At the same time, he pleaded with them that the primary object of the Conference must be the restoration of the Central Powers and Russia. Let us exclude Russia for the moment. May I respectfully ask how they are going to restore the Central Powers in any shape or form if the question of reparation is to be excluded? Yet that is precisely the kind of controversy and discussion which is taking place in Europe at the present time, ruling out the very fundamental considerations which should be taken into account at this Conference as to the method of finding a remedy for the disease which has overtaken such a large part of Europe.
That is not, however, the main point to which I wish to draw attention. This country, which up to very recent times had a long record of fiscal freedom, or something approaching fiscal freedom, will note the fact that there is in Europe now probably more restriction on trade from many points of view than in pre-War times. That restriction recently has taken two forms, and it seems to me very 1012 important that they should be considered at Genoa. There is no doubt that the traders, the merchants, and the large business concerns in many countries, belligerents and non-belligerents, suffered very severely since the War, and many of those traders have been compelled to enter into quite exceptional business arrangements. For example, I saw some time ago an agreement which had been concluded between Dutch and German business houses, under which the Dutch concerns actually gained the controlling interest in the German undertaking in return for certain promises which they made as to the course of trade. That is one illustration of the kind of restriction which must operate against this country as being largely interested in European commerce in the future. There are other forms of restriction of a somewhat similar character. Take, for example, the very large concessions which have been given to powerful oil companies and others in Czecho Slovakia and elsewhere. Is it wrong to suggest that that will go to build up and strengthen monopolies in many parts of Europe, to encourage trust power, and to exclude from the free entry into certain markets those British commodities which had access to those markets in other times? That is one form of restriction which is born of post-War exhaustion and all the chaos which has been true of Europe since the Armistice was signed.
There is another form of restriction with which Members are more familiar. Take that growth of tariff barriers and that multiplication of fiscal devices of every kind which is intended to secure some temporary advantage or protection, but which, in the aggregate, makes European recovery more or less impossible. We have a recent instance in what has taken place in Spain. If any hon. Member will turn to and study the Spanish tariff of 1914, 1921, and to-day, he will be impressed by the tremendous penalties which are really being imposed upon the entry into Spanish ports of goods of all kinds, and, unfortunately, of commodities in which we in Great Britain are keenly interested. Then in France, which I regret to say has been guilty of a great deal of economic fallacy within recent times, there was actually a discussion on a supplementary tax over and above their already high tariff, designed to try to keep out of France those goods which 1013 would enter France enjoying the advantage of depreciated exchange elsewhere. Could any device be more hopeless? These illustrations are an indication of tendencies in fiscal restriction. If we take another non-belligerent country like Sweden, we find an important discussion in the Swedish Chamber in which a prominent economist and publicist of that country pleaded that it should not do anything more to increase its tariff barriers, for two reasons, (1) that they are hindering the recovery of overseas trade, and (2) that they are ministering to the growth of trust power in Sweden itself.
While these things are happening on the continent of Europe, and while artificial barriers are being piled up, we in this country embark upon doubtful and hopeless enterprises in our so-called Safeguarding of Industries Act, and we are actually encouraging the disease which I have tried within brief limits to describe. It is rumoured now that very soon we shall be compelled to rescind that legislation, but probably not before a considerable amount of damage has been done, and before we, unfortunately, with our history of fiscal freedom, have made our contribution to the perpetuation of this European menace. It may be argued by hon. Members that there is nothing new in all this fiscal restriction, that in fact these tariff barriers existed in pre-Wav times, that we found it difficult in the absence of any method of retaliation to get over them, and that we must make the best bargain we possibly can in Europe at the present time. That argument fails to take sufficiently into account the remarkable change in the situation. In pre-War times we had not a Europe which was largely paralysed, but to-day we have a Europe which is largely paralysed. We have conditions that call urgently for the fullest measure of freedom in commercial intercourse that we can possibly obtain, and, above all, we have support in that connection from such a representative body as the Cunliffe Committee, when they laid down the lines of remedy which must be followed if the exchanges and other difficulties were to be righted.
We shall fail in our duty at Genoa unless we draw attention to these things. Probably, in view of the heat and excitement of next Monday, this is the only real opportunity of referring to the practical considerations which ought to come 1014 before the Conference. It seems to mo to be very important, just as we are approaching Genoa, that we in this country should emphasise the danger that is being done to European recovery by the multiplication of these fiscal restrictions of all kinds. Let us say quite candidly to other countries there assembled that there is no chance for them, that there is no chance for us, and that there is no hope for the 2,000,000 of British unemployed, unless they are prepared to recognise two things, (1) that the strength and weakness of Europe must be taken together at this hour, and that we must make the best of the situation, and (2) that they must give up any idea of temporary advantage, which will only make things worse, by raising these tariff barriers higher than they were in pre-War times in some cases, thereby actually retarding the recovery which we all desire.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am sorry that the observations that I shall have to make in regard to the settlement in the Near East come at a time when the Conference on that very important subject is already sitting in Paris. As the House knows, I made several attempts to raise the question, and I did succeed in raising it partially more than once during the last few weeks, but obstacles in the Rules were in my way, and the result was that I was not able to make the observations at what would have been a more appropriate time, namely, before the Conference met. Therefore I think I am entitled to take the opportunity of expressing in the British Parliament what I believe to be the opinion of all Liberals, of the members of the Labour party, and I think of all progressive men in the Conservative party with regard to this settlement.
I see it is stated in many newspapers that the British Government are going to demand of the Greeks that they should evacuate Smyrna and abandon all claims to Smyrna. That seems to be the solution that recommends itself to many minds, but I cannot see a single argument in its favour. Smyrna has been a Greek city for centuries, for centuries before the Turks went there. It was a Greek city before London was in any real sense of the word an English city, and it has remained through all its history a Greek city. It is associated in Greek minds with the fact that it was the native city of Homer, the greatest of their poets. 1015 Apart from these historical considerations, why did the Greeks go to Smyrna? Nobody denies that the Greeks were invited by our Government to go to Smyrna. There may have been misgivings in the minds of the statesmen of Greece as to whether this was a wise policy or not, but when the recommendation came from the British Government, on whose good faith and on whose benevolence the Greek people always relied, and rely to-day as much as ever, it amounted almost to a command. The Greeks, therefore, went to Smyrna and Anatolia because we asked them to go. They were fulfilling, more or less, a mission imposed upon them by at least one member of the, Entente.
Sometimes when I hear this question of the Near East discussed I am inclined to ask myself whether I am dreaming and whether there is not some confusion of mind as to who were our enemies and who our friends in the late War. From the manner in which some hon. Members discuss the demands and the so-called rights of the Turks, one might imagine, if one did not know the history of the War, that during the War it was Greece that was fighting against us and Turkey that was fighting for us, whereas, as everybody knows, the War might have been ended two years sooner, had it not been for the fact that the German and Austrian Powers had behind them all the strength and all the strategic positions of the Turkish Government. How have we treated Greece? We invited them to go to Smyrna. They were compelled to advance, not from any desire of conquering the whole of Anatolia—no such mad idea ever entered the mind, or ever has been expressed by any responsible Greek statesman—but they went there because a certain amount of advance was absolutely necessary to prevent the two wings of their Army, greatly separated, from being taken in turn by the Kemelist Army and being defeated. Having made that advance for military reasons only, they stopped when, as they thought, they had sufficiently protected their Army. Having got the Greeks into this very perilous enterprise one would have thought that they might have relied upon our moral it not our physical assistance in that enterprise. I dismiss physical aid at this moment, because I know that public opinion in this country would not permit 1016 our sending an Army, or even a small portion of an Army, to the defence of the Greeks. But at least we might have given them moral support. But instead of that, for the last few months there has been a terrific campaign against Greece. Everything she did was wrong. She was described as a bellicose Power, anxious to make war to achieve large and impossible national ideas, with the result that every effort that she made to defend her own position was represented as aggression, and even an effort on her part to supply herself in the markets of London with the necessary means of clothing and feeding her soldiers was assailed by a well-organised campaign.
Now it is proposed to evacuate Smyrna and leave no trace of the Greek occupation there. I asked an Armenian two questions, because I am as anxious about the position of the Armenian in the Near East as that of the Greeks. Indeed more so, because the Greeks, after all, have a Government and can defend themselves. This Armenian, though he had been born in Smyrna, spoke Greek perfectly, as most people do in Smyrna. My first question was as to the condition of Smyrna under Greek rule. He told me that, having spent several months there, he was prepared to declare that Smyrna to-day was one of the best governed cities in the world. I have heard to the contrary, but I speak from the testimony of a witness. Monsieur Styriadis, the representative of the Greek Government, was, he declared, one of the best and justest administrators whom Smyrna had ever seen, and the only objection taken to him by some of the Greeks belonging to Smyrna was that he was too much in favour of the Turks and too little in favour of his own race. It was a common saying that he ought to be wearing a fez, so much bound up was he with the Turkish population, and I was told he could be severe as well as just, because he has caused to be executed several Greeks who were found guilty of offences against the Turks. Has anyone ever heard of the Turkish authorities executing one of their people because of atrocities against the Christians?
The second question was what would be the effect upon Armenia if the Greeks are turned out of Smyrna? The answer was that it would be the end of Armenia. The reason why the consequences of turning the Greeks out of Smyrna would be dis- 1017 astrous is that it would deprive all the other Christian populations of Anatolia of a great protection from massacre and a great safeguard of their liberty. I do not insist that Smyrna should become entirely Greek and be entirely under the Greek Government. I have no objection, nor do I believe that responsible Greek statesman would object, to some form of compromise which may give the Turks a nominal suzerainty, but what I do insist on is that the Greeks shall never be asked to evacuate Asia Minor until we have got satisfactory safeguards for the Christian populations, Greek, Armenian, and others, and also that, if the Greeks are not allowed to establish a Government of their own there, there should be international control which, in my opinion, is the only safeguard for the lives of the Christians in Anatolia under Turkish rule. That is the answer I made to M. Franklin-Bouillon, the author of the Angora Treaty—on which I cannot congratulate him—who, with a new enthusiasm for the peaceful and enlightened Turk, says that he had never met an abler and broader statesman in any part of the world than those whom he met at Angora, and he went the length of saying that he wished that we had statesmen of equal benignty and intelligence on the Ministerial Benches of either French or British Parliaments. This is the kind of exaggeration which men advance when they change their views with regard to a situation. I say emphatically that every single experience which Europe has had during centuries with regard to promises made by the Turks has been that they have broken them, and that, if anything, the last condition of Christian subjects of the Turks has always been worse than the first. Some people regard me as a Turkophobe. I am not. I am not a "phobe" of any kind.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I need not put it down to that. I would rather attribute it to an intelligence which has by this time discovered that all the world is dependent, each country upon the other, and until we get that as the guiding rule of our policy in trade and in everything else the world will remain in the condition in which it is to-day. I am sure that the Turkish peasant is all that he has been described, honest, sober; sober 1018 not only with regard to drink but, what is perhaps harder to some people, also with regard to food, loyal to his chiefs, and one of the bravest soldiers whom the world has even seen. These are not the people against whom I am making war. They are the others, the Pashas and all the rest, whose rule has been as disastrous to the Turks themselves, to the common people of their race, as it has been to the Christian people whom they have massacred. Also I am no anti-Mahommedan. When a creed appeals to hundreds of millions of human beings there must be something in it that is a faithful response to some longings, strivings, and aspirations of their souls and, whatever may be the faults that can be alleged against the Mahommedan people, nobody can doubt that it was a very good substitute for the superstitious polytheism which it displaced, and cultivates some of the finest virtues of the individual man. I am not fighting this question on any such bigoted grounds as that of an antagonism to race or creed. I am only asking for justice and equality to all races.
The argument as to Mahommedanism has found most conspicuous expression in the form of the telegram from the Viceroy of India, the publication of which led to the resignation of my right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for India. We are told that we must not do justice to these Christians in the East and give them adequate protection against the Turks because we may affront Moslem feeling in India. This is one of the most extraordinary arguments which I have ever heard. It is alleged that the masses of Mahommedans in India are interested profoundly in the question of the Khilafat, that is that according to them the Khilafat must vest in the Sultan at Constantinople, and that, if not, there will be an enormous addition to our difficulties in India in dealing with the Mahommedan population. He would be a very foolish, irresponsible, and hardhearted man who would add to any of the difficulties which our people have in India at present. Heaven forbid that I should take such a guilty responsibility upon my shoulders, but my view is that this Khilafat argument is a modern invention. I have spoken recently to many men who spent their lives in India, and who came home during the last two or three years, and they tell me that this 1019 idea of the Khilafat, as something embodied in the minds of the Mahommedans of India, did not exist in their time. So far as it does exist, what has brought it into being now? Mr. Gandhi was, I think, one of the first persons to start this idea, but he is not a Mahommedan. He is a Hindu, and was it his object in bringing forward this idea of the Khilafat to protect the Turks and leave the Christians without protection? It was not. He had an object much nearer home. That was to bring the conflicting creeds of India into a common effort against the rule of this country in India. My friend Aga Khan is also among the holders of this doctrine of the Khilafat. He is head of one of the sections of the Mahommedan creed, and naturally feels, as more or less the Pope of this section, in favour of the idea. The Ali Brothers are also among the upholders of this idea.
If you accept this idea according to the exposition in the famous telegram of the Viceroy of India, you will find that it leads you to lengths to which you cannot get. The sacred places must be in the hands of the Khilafat. Many of them are in the hands of the Arabs, and the Arabs are just as good Mahommedans as the Mahommedans of India. Does the Arab Mahommedan population complain that the places most sacred to the Mahommedans are under Arab instead of Turkish control? If this idea of the Khilafat is a stimulus to Moslem agitation and rebellion, why not to Arab agitation and rebellion? Everybody knows that the Arabs, although Mahommedans, were as eager as the Greeks and the Armenians to escape from the devastating tyranny of Constantinople, and that they would die to the last man rather than give back the control of the sacred places to the Sultan of Turkey, Khalif though he may be. That is not an argument which has any force of fact or history behind it. However much we are bound to respect Mahommedan opinion, however much we are bound to cultivate it, however much we are bound to protect it, there is one thing to which I will never submit as a duty on our part, and that is that in order to please Mahommedans we should allow Turks to kill Armenians or Greeks, because the Turks are Mahommedans and the Greeks and Armenians are Christians. I say that in no sectarian spirit. If 1020 Christian Greek and Christian Armenia were endangering the lives of Turkish Mahommedans, I would be the first to denounce them, and the more freely because I would think that such people, called Christians, did not deserve the name of that religion of charity and justice.
I have no faith in the promises of Angora. I will give a very easy test. I have given the House a description of the outlook according to M. Bouillon. But I can add some details to this propaganda of the rulers at Angora. A week or two ago there was a curious little item in the Estimates. It was £25,000 for the Turkish prisoners who for years had been living at our expense in our gaols at Malta. The history of the transaction is rather curious. I am not in any way criticising the action of the Government. Our authorities in Constantinople made a list, as we did in regard to Germany, of war criminals, not of men who made war against us according to the chivalrous rules of warfare, but of men guilty of atrocious criminal offences, who ought to be brought into the dock and, if necessary, sent to the scaffold for their crimes. We made appeal after appeal to the Turkish authorities in Constantinople. Those appeals were neglected. At last our people there came to the inevitable conclusion that the Turkish authorities did not mean either to try or to punish these men, and by the exercise of our authority we took a number, I think 120 or 140, forcibly out of Constantinople and interned them in Malta. In due time we would have tried, I believe, committed and, I hope, punished them, but in the meantime a number of our own country-men were taken prisoners by the Kemalist army and were at Angora. We knew too well what kind of fate they would have. When I hear Gentlemen in this House and elsewhere talking of the gentlemanly Turk, I wonder if they realise the fact that 50 per cent. of our prisoners died from bad treatment during the late War. These men of ours at Angora were liable to the same suffering and perhaps to the same death. At the end of many negotiations we exchanged the 120 criminals for our own 25 soldiers. I do not blame the Government for that transaction.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
My hon. and gallant Friend puts it in his more vivid way. I express my full approval of the conduct of the Government in the matter. I will give the names of some of those Turks who were released: There were Mouammer Bey, ex-governor of Sivas, where he organised the massacre of 30,000 Armenians; and Elias Hofa, of Mouche, responsible for the massacres of Mouche and Bitlis. He is now a high official in the Angora Government. Hon. Gentlemen talk about our relations with the Soviet Government and about shaking hands with murder. This is the kind of thing of which the Prime Minister had to remind M. Briand at Cannes. These are the kind of gentlemen with whom we are asked to shake hands, and on whose promise of good behaviour we are to give away the liberties of the Armenians. There were also Tahsin Bey, ex-governor of Erzeroum, responsible for the massacres in the Erzeroum area; and Tchaoush Moustapha, of Trebizond, notorious for the massacres at Trebizond. I have read a letter from a French pen describing how the writer walked along the shores during these massacres and was heart-broken at the sight of the drowned babies that had risen to the surface. Here are others of the exchanged prisoners: Ali Ishan Pasha, who had a very high rank in the Turkish army in the Eastern vilayets, notorious for the massacres which took place in the Eastern vilayets. He was interned in Malta, allowed out on parole, but broke faith, and, having escaped, joined Moustapha Kemal at Angora as a general in his army. These are M. Bouillon's enlightened statesmen. As a supplementary to a question answered by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the other day, I asked whether the character I gave of some of these criminals was justified or not, and the answer was that my description was perfectly just. My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. A. Herbert) is a great authority on the question of the Near East, and he has mentioned to me the name of one of the prisoners who, I believe, was a perfectly respectable man; at least, my hon. Friend says so, and I am sure I can accept the accuracy and good faith of his statement. Will he deny any of the statements I have made with regard to the other gentlemen who are now members of the Angora Govern- 1022 ment or generals in the Angora army? It is no answer to say that there was one decent gentleman in the crowd. I do not trust any pledges of the Turks when some men like these are in their councils. Even now, when any vestige of wisdom would urge them to keep quiet, they are breaking pledges before the ink is dry on the papers containing those pledges.
I have received an account with regard to Cilicia. The Armenians are left to the protection of the Turks under minority safeguards. When the French abandoned Cilicia, the confidence of the Armenians, with centuries of experience behind them, went also. Their experience of the pledges of the Turks and of the guarantees of the Turks had been that almost every man, woman, and child fled from the place, some of the wealthiest men in Cilicia being glad to go in cockle boats. These ships of weeping emigrants, torn from their property and homes and the soil they love, had a voyage of nearly 30 days. Rejected at Cyprus, rejected in Egypt, rejected in Constantinople, at long last they found an asylum in the capital of Greece, a country on which so much undue and unworthly contumely has been poured. What happened after that? The French got securities, and the securities were broken within a few hours of the disappearance of the French troops. Orphanages were attacked, the French military cemetery was destroyed. That was their gratitude to France. The French Consul there had to put wire entanglements round the cemetery. The Armenian cemeteries were destroyed, Christian officials were removed from the banks, mixed and consular courts were dissolved, the pupils of the French schools were stoned. In Adana four Armenians were killed, one an old woman. At Mersina several Armenians and Christians were hanged. A secret Turkish society, the Society of National Vengeance, is already in course of organisation.
I must say one word more about the Mahommedan aspect of the question. Would anything you can imagine be more calculated to inflame Moslem fanaticism than the programme which, apparently, some of the Christian countries of Europe are organising, namely, that the Greek troops should evacuate Anatolia and the Kemalist troops take their place? Every fanatical Moslem would be entitled to say that this weakened and defeated 1023 country of Turkey, which had fought the victorious Allies throughout the War, had in the end conquered them all and had sent their triumphant army marching over the bodies of Greeks and of the friends of the great Powers at Smyrna. According to all the Armenians I have consulted the fate of Armenia is indissolubly bound up with the fate of Greece. I think our fortunes in the Near East are indissolubly bound up with a strong and friendly Greece. I know that that is an opinion in much higher quarters than any to which I can ever soar. If anyone studies the geography of the Near East, he will see that Greece is the progressive and Turkey the decadent country. Greece is a commercial nation. She is surrounded by a number of islands, every one of which could be made a poison nest of submarines to destroy our communications. We are bartering away our security in the East if we do not make a strong and friendly Greece.
As to the Armenians, I would weary the House if I were to go over again the thrice-told tale, nay, the tale told an hundred times, of the pledges made by the statesmen and Powers of Europe to the Armenians during the War. On the strength of these pledges we got the Armenians to organise armies, to defend some of the most imperilled fronts, and to help in some of the victories in the East to which we owed our great victory in the West. The promises made to Armenia would fill the volumes of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 60 years. Old politicians like myself can remember when the agitation against the Armenian massacres, led by Gladstone, swept like a prairie fire through this country and made the strongest appeal to good feeling, love of justice and hatred of cruelty ever organised by any statesman in this country. What is the result of it all? Nearly 40 years after Gladstone raised his great cry for the protection of the Armenians, more than a million of them have been butchered, and what is the kind of argument which one hears against providing adequate securities to prevent future butcheries? Some gentleman with the manner and air of a comedian, even of a low comedian, gets up in this House and describes the Greeks and the Armenians as a poor, scurvy lot. That is not quite what he said, but it is what he meant.
1024 I wonder how many Armenians or Greeks, gentlemen who talk like that have ever met in their lives? I have met many of them in the course of my life, and whenever I go to little receptions given by Armenians, I find myself surrounded by as cultivated gentlemen and by as pure and intelligent and as educated women as you could find in the best homes in England. When I meet these people, that other vision immediately comes before my mind—the vision of men equally intelligent and of women equally pure being given to butchery and to violation by Turkish soldiers and Turkish gendarmerie, and all the masses of the semi-civilised hordes of Asia Minor. I feel so strongly that it positively makes me see red when, in this great temple of human justice and human liberty, I hear men talk about giving to the hyenas Christian men and Christian women and Christian babes, as dear to their relatives as ours are to us, and worthy of all the respect that we claim for ours. Yet this is happening after all the promises which are chronicled in the Treaty of Sèvres and which were accepted by the Turks in the Treaty of Sèvres. Here is Article 88 of that Treaty.Turkey, in accordance with the action already taken by the Allied Powers, hereby recognises Armenia as a free and independent State.Where is the freedom now? Where is the independence? Cilicia, swept of nearly all its population; a large portion of Armenian territory taken back from the hands of the Russians, and threatened massacres everywhere. Yet the Armenians are the race who held the postern gate of Christianity in Eastern Europe. It was that small nation—once a great and powerful nation—which stood at the postern gate against the advance hordes of Asiatic savages and pagans. As to Greece, its culture is in the mind of every educated man in this country. It still holds its great unchallenged and unequalled intellectual and spiritual position in the chronicles of mankind. Phidias holds comparison with the greatest of our sculptors; Homer stands on a pedestal as high as that of Shakespeare; Plato and Aristotle are equal to the most modern works in style and philosophy. With that great culture and tradition behind them, I believe Greeks and Armenians will bring peace 1025 and justice and equal rights wherever they go, and I throw upon every man who opposes their resurrection and liberation the responsibility for all the insane bloodshed that will result from a policy so disastrous.
§ Mr. A. HERBERT
I had not intended troubling the House until I heard the speech of my hon. Friend who has just sat down. I regret that I had not the advantage of hearing the first part of that speech. While I yield to no man in this House in my admiration for my hon. Friend's humanity, I very much regret the kind of speech he has just made. It gets us no further. It is the old, weary, and, horrible round of recriminations. Massacres are endemic in the East, and all have shared in them, and we in this Government have our responsibility for those massacres; but I will come back to that point again. My hon. Friend referred to the fact that we had liberated a number of Turkish prisoners from Malta. I should like to state the facts about this, as I know them. We took these Turkish prisoners during the Armistice. They were not War prisoners. They may have been guilty of the crimes which my hon. Friend charges against them, but they were never tried, and at least one of them, Rahmy Pasha, was a man who, during War time, distinguished himself by extraordinarily chivalrous and kind treatment of the English in Smyrna, and was officially thanked by us. Has my hon. Friend made one single proposition that is going to help us? The real fact of the matter is that when we come to the East, we find this condition of things, that it is a great mosaic of rebellious colours which have never amalgamated. There has been one invasion after another invasion sweeping across the East from various different races and various sections of humanity, whose nationalism has remained, and in consequence of that there is no peace. Many hard things have been said against us with regard to our treatment of rebellion and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and yet in Ireland we have only one island to deal with. The ruling race in Asia Minor has got to deal with Continental Sinn Fein, and when people have something in the nature of Continental Sinn Fein to deal with, we must not be surprised, especially in the East, if they use the very strongest measures known to mankind.
1026 I have just seen the so-called terms which have been offered to-day in Paris. May I say quite briefly and with great deference, as a man who has at all events some knowledge of that part of the world, that I think those terms will not be acceptable to anybody there. For all our sakes we want peace. We do want peace for the minorities. There, my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) and I are absolutely at one. We do want to save life, if we can, in the East, but we must have guarantees which are not paper guarantees but real guarantees. Those guarantees we had in the past when we had a gendarmerie organised by Englishmen in Thrace and Macedonia. You can only get those terms if you get men who know the question to deal with it, and if you act with an open mind and honestly.
I am glad of this opportunity of saying one other thing. The other day I brought up the name of Sir Basil Zaharoff in this House. I know Sir Basil Zaharoff is a man of many parts, and I believe, has contributed very greatly to many philanthropic institutions in this country. I know of him also in this repute—as one of the chief counsellors of the Prime Minister. I say that our Government should have confidence in the House of Commons, and should declare its policy to the House of Commons, rather than to any of these foreign advisers. I believe had the Prime Minister taken the advice of any of the experts, be they soldiers or merchants, who are people on the spot, that advice would have been very different to the advice given by Sir Basil Zaharoff. He is a very big Greek multi-millionaire. Indeed, he is commonly supposed to be the richest man in the world. The policy of England has been consistent in only one thing, and that is through thick and thin, with and against our interests, in backing the policy of Greece. I would appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division, and to people who think like him, to leave aside all recriminations and work for the real settlement we all desire. The longer you continue these recriminations the more do you inflame blood out in the East and the harder do you make a just and proper settlement.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE
I agree with the observations of the hon. Mem- 1027 ber for Yeovil (Mr. A. Herbert) that we ought to get away from recriminations and generalities. It seems to me that towards the end of his remarks he made an attack on Greece which was not altogether in keeping with his general observations in the beginning.
§ Mr. A. HERBERT
I did not wish to make any kind of attack on Greece. I merely made certain references to the position of Sir Basil Zaharoff in the counsels of our Government.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I should like to get away altogether from that line of country. I think in the midst of the negotiations actually going on in Paris, it would be a mistake for this House to-day to go in detail into the controversy between Greece and Turkey. From what I heard in Paris—and I returned from Paris only last night—the negotiations were proceeding as favourably as could be expected, and I think it would be a mistake if we started the old wrangle to-day in this House between the rival claims. I rise to make two suggestions, connected with the other invitation made by the hon. Member for Yeovil, that we should get away from generalities. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) made a very eloquent speech on behalf of the Christian minority. Let me suggest to the House two practical ways in which I think we could give the Christian minority very real help. I am painfully aware that many of the provisions that we have adopted in the past have been useless. It is very easy to talk of the protection of minorities in Turkey, but it is very difficult to find effective protection. It is easy to talk of international gendarmerie and of international High Commissions, but the experience of the past has been that they have given to the Christian minorities very little real protection. That being so, I have been giving a good deal of thought recently—and only the other day I was in Constantinople and Smyrna and had a chance of talking to people on the spot—as to what kind of practical safeguards one might adopt.
1028 Let me suggest two, and let me take, first of all, the case of the Armenians. I agree with what the hon. Member for the Scotland Division said about the terrible way in which they have been treated and the obligations under which all the great Powers of the West are to them. I cannot help thinking that in the present state of affairs the most practical way for the protection of the Armenians is to develop the Armenian State of Erivan. There is, I quite agree, at the moment an unfortunate state of affaire in which the country is in the hands of the Bolshevists, but none the less it is an Armenian State, and I believe, myself, that one will find a much better national home for the Armenians by developing the State of Erivan than by creating for them an artificial zone in Cilicia or elsewhere. I throw that out as a suggestion, in answer to the challenge of the hon. Member opposite that we should come forward with practical proposals. Let me give the House another proposal that I wish to bring to its attention. I believe, myself, that one of the most effective ways of protecting the Christians in Turkey is to insist, in the terms of peace, upon the abolition of conscription. I believe, myself, that the use which has been made of conscription by the Turks since 1908—for it was only adopted in 1908—has meant the massacre and the death of numberless Christians. I hope, therefore, that whatever may be the result of the negotiations in Paris, we shall see that thi6 quite modern system of conscription has been abolished, for it seems to me inconceivable that, whilst we have abolished conscription in Germany, in Bulgaria, and in Austria, we can allow it to continue in Turkey. Hon. Members will remember that one of the most terrible ways in which Christians have been massacred was their drafting in battalions, their conscription, their removal far away from their homes, by which means, I am assured by many people in the Near East who have been brought into direct contact with the massacres that took place, thousands and thousands of Christians have been massacred. I therefore make these two practical suggestions to the House—first of all, that for the Armenians the idea of the independent State of Erivan should be further developed and, secondly, that one of the most essential terms of the 1029 peace with Turkey should be the abolition of conscription.
The House always listens with great respect, on matters of this kind, to the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare). I quite agree with the remark that he made, early in his speech, that in so far as possible in questions of this kind we should avoid all recriminations, but the hon. Baronet went on to deprecate any discussion at this moment in view of the negotiations that are taking place in Paris. He informed us that these negotiations were, in his view, proceeding favourably, and we all hope that may be so, but what he means by favourably might be very different from what would be meant by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) and the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. A. Herbert). Neither of those Gentlemen takes the same view of the settlement of the Turkish and Near Eastern problem, and I am bound to say, for myself, that I think it is eminently desirable that, certainly without recrimination, on an occasion of this nature the House of Commons should be able to advise Ministers as to what particular view it takes on this question. I merely say that, but do not propose to enter into the subject at any particular length.
The hon. Member for Yeovil said that if the Prime Minister and the Government had in the last two or three years taken the advice of experts, either inside this House or out of it, we should never have arrived at the impasse at which we now find ourselves, and I am very glad to find myself in agreement with him. The reason that we find ourselves at this impasse at the present moment is twofold. One is that the advice of the experts has never been taken, and the other is that there was an interminable and unreasonable delay in settling the Turkish and Near Eastern problem. Various excuses have been given during the last two or three years for that delay, but there is no reasonable excuse that can be found, and if to-day we find ourselves in the difficult position with which we are confronted, it is principally due to that delay and to the individuals from whom the Government has sought its advice. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), speaking a few nights ago, drew attention to an institu- 1030 tion which he named the "Garden Suburb," in other words known as the Cabinet Secretariat, and he showed—and I have myself referred to this matter on previous occasions—how our foreign policy had suffered owing to the meddling of the Cabinet Secretariat. I was very interested, in reading the Geddes Report, to see a reference to the Cabinet Offices, otherwise known as the Cabinet Secretariat, and on page 58 of that Report I find that no recommendation is made in the direction of economy, so far as this is concerned, by the Treasury in favour of the abolition of the Cabinet Secretariat. This Secretariat was instituted, I think, during the War. It was a war creation, and I venture to state that, in the opinion of all those best qualified to judge outside the circles of the Government, there has been no justification whatever for the continuation of that Secretariat. We existed up to the beginning of the War in 1914 without a Cabinet Secretariat, and I suggest that all the Departments of State could conduct their affairs very much more efficiently to-day if the Cabinet Secretariat came to an end. So far as I can see, the Cabinet Secretariat has one end and object only, and that is to poach on the business of every other Department and to lead to the vacillations in Government policy, of which we have seen so much during the past three years.
I pass from that for one moment to the subject with which this Debate opened, and it has been in that connection what I venture to call a very remarkable Debate. It is customary—at least, during the considerable number of years that I have been in this House it has been customary—for the opportunity to be seized of the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill to discuss foreign affairs. In fact, I think no Debate of this description has taken place in previous years when this has not formed one of the main subjects of discussion. On an occasion such as this, what matter in connection with foreign affairs is most likely to be discussed? During the past three or four weeks we have heard about nothing but Genoa. The supporters of His Majesty's Government, in this House and outside, and in the Press, have told us at great length all about Genoa, what is to be expected of the Genoa Conference, what is to come out of it, and how, arising 1031 out of it, we are to see a new Heaven and a new earth. Therefore, what more natural, when this opportunity is given, than that my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), and others who have spoken, should endeavour to elicit from the Government what it really has in view so far as the Genoa Conference is concerned? The right hon. Member for Peebles pointed out that out of the mouth of the Prime Minister, and by reason of the agreement which was come to at Cannes, there were certain specific questions deliberately ruled out from the agenda of the Conference. He showed that the Prime Minister, at the request of the French Government, was not to discuss the question of reparations. He further indicated, so far as we know, that the question of Allied debts is not to be touched, and he then proceeded to ask the Government—and rightly so, in my humble judgment—with what is the Genoa Conference going to deal, and where is this new Heaven and new earth which we are led to expect; where does it exist and how is it to arise?
I suggest that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House was totally inadequate. I would not like to suggest, of course, that the Lord Privy Seal was totally unaware of what was going to be discussed at Genoa. No doubt he is fully aware, not only of what is in the Prime Minister's mind on this subject, but of the agenda, and all that is going to take place. But in all seriousness, I suggest that, when an opportunity such as this has been given, when the Government must have known that questions would be asked of them as to what was to take place at Genoa, in order that this House might have full time to make up its mind as to how it is going to vote on Monday next, it is unfair to the House that the Government should not have been prepared to answer the questions which have been rightly put to them from the front Opposition Bench. On Monday we are to have one day's Debate. We are told that this is to be a critical day in the life of the Government. With that I am not concerned, but we are all of us concerned with the state of grave unemployment in this country at the present moment. We are 1032 all of us concerned with setting going again the wheels of international commerce. We are told through the Press, and by other means, and by the Prime Minister himself, that these great objects are to be achieved by, and through, the means of the Conference at Genoa, and in those circumstances I would say it would not only have been fairer to the House, but it would have been more courteous, if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had come to the House to-day prepared to answer the questions which have been put to him by my right hon. Friend.
§ Major CHRISTOPHER LOWTHER
I would like to invite the House to accompany me from the East to the West, and to turn our attention for a few moments to the subject of Mexico. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and I have had several tussles on this subject, and I propose shortly, this afternoon, to join issue with him once again. I have remarked that when my hon. Friend finds himself driven into a corner, he is apt to appeal to Members of the House, myself included, not to press him to make a statement or to give a particular answer to questions upon this subject. I have done my best to meet my hon. Friend's wishes in this respect, but the time is come when I feel it is my duty to press again this subject. I think the House will agree with me that it is fair to state that in the case of two countries, unless they are at war, the normal condition is that there shall be mutual recognition, and if that be generally agreed, then, I think, it is incumbent upon the hon. Gentleman to prove the case why recognition should so long be withheld from the Republic—the constitutionally elected Government, be it said, of Mexico. I have invited my hon. Friend on several occasions to give an explanation of this state of affairs, and I do not think he has ever seriously attempted to make out a case. If he has done so, I am afraid it is my stupidity which has failed to realise the importance which he attaches to his arguments.
I am not content to leave the matter at that. I am not content to say that it is entirely my hon. Friend's duty to make out a case. I will venture to supply him with a very few, but, I hope, pertinent arguments as to why he should, even now at this late hour, recognise the Mexican 1033 Government. The first and the most important argument is that the policy which the Foreign Office have pursued in this respect has been not only not helpful, but it has been actually harmful. I have sought in all directions to ascertain what is the view of those who are well qualified to judge of this matter. In addition to paying a visit recently to a country which I formerly knew very well, I have endeavoured to get into touch with those who can be fairly described as having leading interests in that country, and I come upon one conclusion overwhelmingly evident everywhere, that, for the sake of British interests, the Republic of Mexico should be recognised. I have it, I think, from my hon. Friend himself, for, if I am not mistaken, upon the 5th May last, he made a statement very much to the effect that it is a disadvantage, not only to Mexico but to the commercial and other interests of this country, that our relations with Mexico cannot be more regular.
My hon. Friend may, perhaps, not believe me. He may perhaps affect to disregard the opinions which, I believe, he has the opportunity of taking, of the leading commercial interests in this respect, but I do put it to him that he would be well advised to go outside that small official circle in the Foreign Office which seems to hold him to this obstinate course, and to take advice from some of the great public servants who have themselves served in Mexico, and who know not only that country, but know very well the conditions of Latin America. I invite my hon. Friend to take the opinion, for instance, of such an authority as Sir Reginald Tower. Let him appeal to him. He was for many years Minister at Mexico. He was for a number of years Minister in the Argentine. He is a man who is well qualified to know what is the view not only of British people trading in those countries, but also of those countries themselves. Let him take his opinion, and I venture to think he will find that he will express himself far more strongly than I have ever ventured to do in this House on the subject. If he disregards what I say here; if he disregards what he has been told by British interests; if he is disinclined to take the advice and opinions of great public servants, let him pay heed to what the Prime Minister said. I read with great interest a letter which the right hon. Gentleman wrote to 1034 the Coalition Liberal candidate at Leicester. This is what he said:Much progress has been made in the revival of trade since the War, but much remains to be done. We have to find markets for British goods. We have to find means which will enable British manufacturers to obtain orders which will enable them to give employment and to pay wages to British workers.I think the right hon. Gentleman, when he wrote that letter, was not bearing in mind his own Foreign Office, because time after time has it been pointed out to them that in this respect, at any rate, they are stifling that very policy; they are shutting it down. I have concrete instances. I should like to give the House an actual case. The chairman of the Mexican Railway, which is an important concern in that country, entirely owned by British capital, was good enough to write to me, and I will send my hon. Friend the letter, although I believe he has already seen it. He wrote to mo that the board of the Mexican Railway Company, on which are representatives of two of the five leading banks, and on which other distinguished gentlemen have seats, had decided to extend the Mexican Railway for an additional 200 miles, and, furthermore, they had decided to electrify a portion of the railway in order to avoid having to use a particular kind of locomotive on a very steep and difficult part of the tract. But, he added—and this is very significant—My board will not for a moment consider entering upon such work until recognition shall have been accorded to Mexico.I would also like to bring to the attention of the House a letter from an entirely different source, but, if possible, rather more important. The name of the great contractors, the great oil developers, Messrs. Pearson and Son, Limited, is not unknown to this House. It is they who in the past have practically made that country. If my hon. Friends will take the trouble to walk down Parliament Street, and look at Nos. 47 and 53, they will see brass plates upon the doors showing that they represent the most important developments in that country. What does a partner in that firm write on the attitude of the Foreign Office in that respect? What does he say of their desire to encourage British enterprise in that country, and the means they have taken to do it?Quite apart from the question of recognition itself, their support of Cummins"—1035 the British Chargé d'Archives in Mexico City—
7.0 P.M.has probably done and continues to do more harm to the relations between the two countries than anything else. They were notified officially by Urquidi here in London that he was persona non grata, and they must have ample information from other sources confirming this. In their replies, however, to the Mexican Government on this subject they have adopted the most highhanded attitude possible, and their every action would almost seem to have been calculated deliberately to increase rather than diminish the friction between the two countries.That is a formidable indictment. That is the Foreign Office, whose business it is to push, to encourage, to protect British trade, and that is what one of the principal people whom they should protect has to say about them. It seems to me as if the Foreign Office represent themselves. They seem to forget that they represent this country and British interests, and so long as they represent themselves so long shall we go on in this same old groove. My hon. Friend has hinted more than once that the conditions in Mexico do not warrant the British Government recognising that country. That country is at peace, and has been at peace for the last 18 months. It is infinitely better governed than a great many of the smaller countries of Europe at the present time. It is constitutionally governed. Out rages do not take place in that country such as we, unfortunately, have to read about in the newspapers day by day in Ireland—
§ Major LOWTHER
I will come to that. The argument, then, based on the assumption that Mexico is in a state of permanent revolution, falls to the ground by the mere weight of fact. The country is in a peaceable condition, is constitutionally governed, and for the first time in its history, I think, it has a Government that is endeavouring to govern democratically. It must be within the recollection of the House how for many years General Diaz was the President of the Mexican Republic, but what the House do not know—or, perhaps, what they do not generally realise—is that during the Presidency of General Diaz, beneficial as it was to foreigners in many respects, no 1036 Mexican had the right to represent any opinion whatsoever that was in any way contrary to the Government or that could in any way be held to be against the existing order of things. Nowadays, it may not be an advantage, but we are living in democratic times. Nowadays, newspapers, individuals, and Parliaments all express their opinions according as they think—not always very wisely, I agree, but at any rate freely, so that I venture to think that my hon. Friend, if he will go outside that little narrow official circle, will find that the country on the whole compares favourably with many other countries with a similar population as regards its government.
My hon. Friend (Mr. A. M. Samuel) has raised the question of the claims of British subjects. Some little time ago there emanated from the Foreign Office the proposal that all claims of British nationals, of British subjects who have suffered during the years of revolution of 1910 till the revolution came to an end, ought to be examined, ought to be assessed, and ought to be paid. The Mexican Government—I know this for a fact—acceded to the British Government's request. They accepted the proposals which the British Government made. Principal among them was the appointment of a Chilian Chairman, to which the Mexican Government assented. That was so long ago as last October. According to an answer I had to-day, my hon. Friend (Mr. Harmsworth) has just sent the draft of an agreement for the establishment of a Mixed Claims Commission to deal with British claims to the representative of the Mexican Government in London. If there be delay in this respect, then it lies at the door of the Foreign Office, because I can tell the House that I was in the Mexican Foreign Office myself when the telegram came from the Mexican representative in London with the British Government's suggestion, and there and then the Mexican Foreign Minister agreed to the suggestions. Therefore the delay, such as it has been, has been the fault of the Foreign Office. There are two distinct processes as regards claims. You first have to examine the claims, because obviously you are not going to admit spurious claims or allow claims to be filed without being stamped. Then you have to assess the amount to be paid on any well-established claim, but there is no 1037 reason why this Mixed Commission should not have got to work a long time ago. I am going to put this to my hon. Friend. The Mexican Government is not much more vastly wealthy than any other Government. It is wealthier than some, but if my hon. Friend withholds recognition, where does he think that such Mexican money as there may be in the Treasury will go—to the education of Mexican children, or to the payment of the claims of nationals who have not recognised the Government? I will tell him. They will go to the charity which is nearest at home. If my hon. Friend were to recognise the Mexican Government he would have there an official instrument to insist upon payment of such claims as might have been assessed by the Mixed Claims Commission. If he does not have an official representative there, I do not know how he is going to make representations to the Mexican Government for the speedy payment of the claims. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Samuel) raised just one other point about the external debt—
§ Major LOWTHER
Quite so. Perhaps he is not aware that at the present moment there is sitting in New York a committee of foreign bondholders who have been in treaty with the Mexican Government for the payment of the external debt, arrears of interest, and the payment of the present interest as it falls due. The difficulty of that was this. The Mexican Government have endeavoured for some time past to arrive at an understanding with the owners of large oil properties in the Republic of Mexico for the payment of taxation. They had—so I understand, because nothing has been officially declared in this respect—set up this position: that when they were able to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement with the owners of the oil fields in Mexico as regards the payment of taxation they would devote the sums they so received to the funding of the external debt, arrears of interest, and the payment of interest when it falls due. On 20th March appeared in one of the financial papers in London the following notice:Mexico accepts the responsibility for foreign claims resulting from the revolution, and is ready to adjust them when the countries concerned appoint representatives.1038 My hon. Friend has a chance now to say to the Mexican Government, "What you have said, do you mean?" and if they say to him, "We do," then, surely, he should take his courage in both hands and say to the Mexican Government, "We will restore the friendly relations that used to exist"—and which, mind you, are held very dear in Mexico, where British capital is the most potent of foreign capitals in the country. He has an opportunity there. I submit he has delayed all too long, but I for one will never cast a stone or say a word against him from this moment onward if he will but realise that the recognition of that country is vital, not only to the good and stable Government of the country itself, but, what is more important to us, sitting here as representatives of a great people, to the provision of protection for British interests abroad.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I did not intend to-night to make any reference to Mexico, but I think the speech to which we have just listened should have some words said about it. Perhaps, from my supreme irresponsibility, I may be able to say something about Mexico which the Under-Secretary of State will not be inclined to say. I was very interested in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, which seemed carefully to leave out of account the one factor of the situation which we all know has governed it for the last eight or nine years, namely, the question of the policy of the United States in Mexico. This is one of those very rare instances where actually our foreign policy has been consistent. That policy has been that in Mexico we should pursue a common policy with the United States, that we should recognise the United States as, on the whole, having a prior position in regard to Mexico, and that we should, more or less, and within reason, follow their lead. That factor has been left entirely out of account, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman probably knows that the policy of the United States Government, which during the last year has, I think, been a battleground between certain differing personalities in the United States Cabinet—even in the United States Cabinet there are differing personalities on the matter of policy, even as there are here—on this question is coming to a head, and will very probably allow of a decision in the near future.
1039 There is one thing I must say. The hon. and gallant Gentleman gets up and says, "If the Foreign Office will only consult their great public servants who know that part of the world," and then in the next breath he reads out a letter from a commercial firm in this country making an attack on one of those public servants who is our representative in Mexico City. That is not the way to increase the prestige of the British Government in Mexico, and I do not understand why, on the authority of a commercial firm, however eminent, a personal attack should be made on a gentleman who apparently has already been attacked by the Mexican Government. Our representative in Mexico City is, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, the representative of the commercial interests of this country. He is not the representative of the Mexican Government, and I should certainly refuse to withdraw a man who, at any rate, has long residence and intimate knowledge of Mexico. Certainly I should refuse to withdraw a man at the beck-and-call of the Mexican Government, although I have nothing to say against the present Mexican Government, which, I believe, will prove stable and successful.
What I wish to speak about to-night—if I may go back to a previous part of the Debate—is with reference to what was said about the Near East. I agree with everything that has been said by hon. Members to the effect that this is not the appropriate moment to discuss the merits of particular claims in the Near East, and especially is it not the moment to try to get an advantage for one nation or another. I confess that I think that our policy in the Near East for many years has been rendered ineffective by the competition between Turkophile, Greekophile, Bulgarophile, Serbophile, and so on; but this is not the appropriate moment to indulge in vain contention. We can however cast our minds back and look for a moment at what is the background of the situation in which we now find ourselves. There is no doubt that in the Near East at the present moment we have a choice of evils—and that in a field where at one time we had, or might have had, complete freedom of action, and complete power to do precisely what we wished. At the time of the Armistice we might have confined the Turk to Asia 1040 Minor and yet have maintained our friendship with the Turks. We could have ejected the Turk from Constantinople without leaving any such bitterness behind as would be the case now, whereas we are now apparently reduced to keeping the Turk in Constantinople, and yet not maintaining our friendship with Turkey. That is the position in which we are placed, and it does behove us to remember what is the reason.
This has been referred to already tonight by the hon. Gentleman opposite. For weeks and months during the Paris Conference we delayed making, I do not say a settlement, but in giving any consideration to the Turkish question. It was a question which had been discussed in some detail both in the Departments here and internationally with certain of our Allies before the Armistice. It had been made the subject of international agreements, of the merits of which I say nothing here. There was the Sykes-Picot agreement, for instance. There had been more intensive work upon that than on any other single subject which was brought before the Paris Conference for settlement, but it was the one subject which the British Delegation at Paris was forbidden so much as to mention during the whole of the first four, almost five, months of the Conference. No meeting of the Near Eastern Commission of the Conference was allowed to be held. The matter was left in the hands of the Council of Four, and no man knew what the policy of His Majesty's Government was or, indeed, any other Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Zaharoff!"] My hon. Friend opposite is very fond of finding niggers in the wood pile.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Sir Basil Zaharoff's name has been mentioned. It is not the fact that that gentleman or any other gentleman has determined the policy of the Government in the Near East, because the Government never have had a policy. The Prime Minister said some months ago in a Debate in this House that Greek troops had been sent to Smyrna in order to carry out the policy of the Allies to give Smyrna to the Greeks. That was not so. The Allies never had decided definitely in any way as to the fate of Smyrna. The Greek 1041 troops were sent to Smyrna, not to carry out any settled policy of the Allies but simply because there was the danger of massacre and trouble at Smyrna, and the Greek troops were the only army disposable in Europe. I think the sending of Greek troops there was the greatest mistake, but, as I have said before, it does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who did their best, by agitation after the Armistice, to strip this country of armed power in the Near East and everywhere else, to wash their hands in innocency on this question, or on any other. But the fact remains that the position in which we find ourselves in the Near East at the present time is due to this long delay, a delay partly excused or sought to be excused on the ground that it was thought that the United States might possibly and conceivably be induced to undertake a mandate in some part of Asia Minor.
The Government was advised by every man who had the slightest knowledge of American politics that there was no such chance whatever, but if there was the shadow of some chance, why did the Government choose that very moment to exclude, as far as possible, any American interest in the Middle East by the conclusion of their ill-timed agreement with Persia? There has been no consistency whatever even in the errors of His Majesty's Government. I do not like, I confess, to appear in the character of a Jeremiah in relation to the foreign policy of this Government, because I do recognise the difficulties, the enormous difficulties, they have had to encounter. I do not wish to make any criticism upon their ideas of the policy which they have sought to carry out. I do not make that criticism, because I confess, in the prevailing darkness hovering over the Supreme Council and the Cabinet Secretariat, I have never clearly understood what their ideas of policy were. What, however, I do criticise is their method of execution and their delays. I do criticise the fact that the Government have never used any of the machinery of foreign policy, any of the diplomatic machinery, in the attempt to settle matters in the Near East. They have never maintained relations with any single country in the Near East of a close enough character to enable them to direct the policy of these countries. They have thought—and they think the same now—that they can settle 1042 these great questions merely by meeting in conference, with no previous preparation. They know what the result of that was. They know that the only reason of failure at Paris was because there had been so little preparation beforehand. They are now doing the same with Genoa. They have done the same, over and over again, in the Near East. We have had Conferences at San Remo and Cannes, and we are no further at all, because the Government will not trust any administrative representative, any civil servant, any of the public servants of the country, to carry out their policy up to a certain point by negotiation. I have never joined in the absurd attack on diplomacy by conference, but I do say this, that diplomacy by conference is of no use whatever, except to sum up and arrive at definite conclusions on a long course of diplomatic negotiations.
When you settled the reparation question—I do not mean settled finally but at any rate fixed the total of the indemnity to be exacted—did you do it by an Allied Conference? No. You did it by diplomatic means, by a long course of months and months of British diplomacy which eventually convinced our French friends that their original anticipation of indemnity payments from the Germans were exaggerated, and could not be fulfilled. That is the only way in which you can arrive at any agreement. Diplomacy by conference or a final meeting of the Supreme Council has to be held in order to take the final decision, but they cannot do without preparation. That, and that alone, is the real reason why some of us support the League of Nations, because the one object and purpose of that organisation is to provide both for preparation beforehand on technical matters and for the final summing up, by international conference, of the conclusions and settlements previously prepared.
§ Captain ELLIOT
It shows the hopelessness of this Debate that the speeches have ranged so widely, for there is opportunity for reviewing all the actions of the Government for the past twelve months. The speeches to-day have had one governing factor: that there is a feeling in this country that sufficient consideration is not being given to the great problems of foreign policy, that there is not sufficient thought being put into them 1043 beforehand, and with that, though with very few other of the sentiments of the Noble Lord opposite, I am in full and hearty agreement. Take the question of the Near East. The main thing that was said was: "Too late," and it is too late. We have disaster and humiliation accomplished, and we have not yet gathered the fruits to follow—
§ Captain ELLIOT
Well, it certainly does not lie in the mouths of any party in this House to claim that they sought in any way to offer a solution to the problems of the Near East. In the great Debate on the question of Constantinople hon. Members opposite were loudest in their demand that we should practically forget the pledge that we had given, and take Constantinople, the capital of the Turk, away from that country. Even one of so high a moral character and so profound a student of the problems of politics as the Noble Lord was in agreement that that city should be taken away from Turkish control and hung like a millstone around the neck of the League of Nations. That attitude makes one realise how great and fearful are the great problems that the Government have to face, and how little it lies—
§ Captain ELLIOT
I was present in the House when the Noble Lord made his speech claiming that Constantinople should be put under the control of the League of Nations.
§ Lord R. CECIL indicated dissent.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I think what I did say was that I did not think it was right that Constantinople should be left under the control of the Turks.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I will look up the Noble Lord's speech, in which I believe he said that his main object was that it should be taken away from the Turks, but that he thought it should be given 1044 to the League of Nations. I was very much struck with the fact that speaker after speaker re-echoed that sentiment from all sides of the House, showing that there was no sort of prescience in the mind of any one of those hon. Members as to what the course of events was likely to be in the next few months. Two right hon. Gentlemen speaking for the Labour party also stated the policy of that party which was to deprive the Turk of Constantinople and hand it over to the League of Nations, and it was only the hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) who, with that sense of brutal reality which always characterises his speeches, stood up as an uncompromising supporter of the reign of the Turk.
The only reason I have troubled the House on this occasion is to ask hon. Members to consider this case, which I do not think is yet too late. We have had to revise the Treaty with Turkey. I beg of the House and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in particular to consider the urgent question of the revision of the Treaty with Austro-Hungary. Luckily disaster has not yet taken place in this corner of the globe, but there are all the materials for an explosion accumulating there, but we have not yet so far been humiliated as we have been in other parts of the world, and we have done our best to teach these nations that force and not reason will be listened to by the Allies. They asked for a plebiscite in Odenburg. At first we refused them this plebiscite, and they afterwards invaded a portion of this territory and held it, and then the Allies came and practically said, "We recognise the old familiar argument of the bayonet and the bullet and we accede to your request for a plebiscite." The plebiscite was held, and the people of that district gave a decided majority in favour of restoration to the kingdom of Hungary. At present a determination is going on of the frontier of Transylvania between the kingdoms of Hungary and Rumania, and I beg to the Under-Secretary to make some attempt to see that the principles under which Hungary has been stripped of so much of her territory shall not be applied to her detriment in the only case in which this inquiry is likely to tell in her favour. She has a clear majority of the inhabitants and this is territory which should not be taken from her.
1045 Three of her great towns are within the strip of territory which is to be determined by the Commission, and I have already heard it asserted by some of the Ambassadors interested that the retention of these three towns in the territory now being considered cannot be acceded to, and that the only thing that can be done is to shift the frontier posts a few yards one way or the other. I do not wish to weary the House with figures but, roughly speaking, there are 154,000 people being dealt with in this area, of whom only about 17,000 are non-Magyars. It is plain that these must be given to Rumania because they control the railway line which maintains the necessary communication north and south. It is a line which does not run into Rumania, but up through Czecho-Slovakia. It is not a through line, but merely a local line which runs more or less north and south. In the main, there is plenty of railway communication and plenty of chance for the communications of the Rumanian and the Transylvanian territory to be kept up.
At this moment the Boundary Commission is sitting and exploring the ground. I believe the British representative on that Commission recognises, as anybody must, that a settlement of this question in a manner which will be a flagrant injustice to the kingdom of Hungary will result ultimately in one of those running sores in Europe which it was the ostensible object of the Versailles Treaty-makers to remove once and for all. I know that it is almost hopeless to bring forward these cases in this House, but these responsibilities have been thrown upon us, these crushing problems and the re-determination of the European frontiers have been placed upon the Western Powers, and I ask the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs to make sure at any rate that the views of the representative of Great Britain on these questions are properly attended to by the Foreign Office, and that they will give their whole weight in the direction I have indicated and not defer too much to the weight of the French representative. I know the weight of the French representative is thrown largely on the side of Rumania and against Hungary, as it has consistently and unjustly been ever since the collapse of the dual monarchy and the dissolution of it into its component parts.
The three towns alone stand as a sort of symbol of what Hungary has hoped 1046 for, and under the promise of which she accepted the terribly harsh terms of her Treaty, when she was promised that a Commission would examine the frontier and make what re-distributions were found to be possible. A Committee is sitting now on this question, and re-determination of the line is possible. It is possible to restore some 2,000 or 3,000 Hungarians to their native land without doing any injustice to any of the other places around, because what I am suggesting would not cut off these three towns from the main Magyar country by any strips of territory which form part of Eastern Europe.
I apologise for troubling the House with this case, but we can only bring these problems up once a year, and it is useless to hope that at the Genoa Conference or any other Conference they will ever come to any settled peace and re-start trade throughout Europe as long as we encourage the countries in Central Europe to believe that we are actuated by a spirit of injustice, and a desire to crush and humiliate our ex-enemies, and as long as we make them believe that it is hopeless for them to look for any justice at our hands.
This is a terrible lesson. Let us come back to our own doctrine of fair play to the under dog, and standing up for the person whom morally we have knocked down. No doubt hon. Members opposite are just as anxious to see a revival in Europe as we are, but we on this side have our own ideas as to how it should be done, which are not the same as the ideas of hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite. Here is one small country where we have a chance of bringing about a settlement now, and let us do it for the sake of justice instead of doing it later on for the sake of fear.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I hope the House and the Government will not follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down in his opinion that it is too late to deal justly and effectively with the Near Eastern question. Surely with the might of this Empire that is a wild and rather absurd opinion to put before us. I much prefer the line taken by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), who asked us to turn our attention to practical things that could be done. I am perfectly certain that there are many 1047 things still that can be done in the East, and all those who are fully acquainted with this problem and whom I know certainly hold that view. One suggestion made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea was most valuable, and it was that we should add to the territory of Erivan. A year ago representatives of the Turks and the Greeks were over in this country discussing peace terms, and the suggestion was made by our Government that there should be an Armenian Home established in that country.
I understand the intention was that a certain small part of territory, which had been formally inhabited by the Armenians and belonged to Turkey, should be added to the Erivan Republic, and the Armenian refugees should 'be encouraged to settle there. That could be done now, and it is probably the most hopeful way in which some measure of fulfilment could be given to the promises which the British Government and the French Government have so freely given to the Armenians. There are at present half a million Armenian refugees in the Caucasus waiting for some opportunity to get back to their homes, where they could live together and support themselves by their industry. I hope His Majesty's Government will encourage that proposal, which, it is reported, was made by France at the recent Conference in Paris, that a certain portion of territory should be added to the Erivan Republic, and if that is done a great deal towards a solution of this question will have been accomplished.
It is very disturbing to find it reported in the same newspapers announcing the suggestion I have just referred to that our Government opposed this proposal which had been put forward by France. I hope, at any rate, that that is not true, and I trust the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be able to assure us that it is not true. I do not think we should take any objection on the ground that the Erivan Republic is under the influence of Russia: it has been under Russia for a very long time, and Russia is the only country that has ever given peace and protection to the Armenians. Since the Armistice we have done nothing, as a matter of fact, for the protection of these people. Russia has, at any rate, protected a large part of the Erivan Republic from the incursion of 1048 the Turks, and I think it would be a big step towards a general settlement in the East if this additional territory were given for the settlement of these refugees.
On behalf of those who have taken an interest in the subject races of the East I say that we have never had any hostility to the Turkish people. Quite on the contrary, we desire to see a general appeasement which would be for the good of the Turkish people and for the good of the Russian people as well. Naturally we have to speak chiefly, and first and foremost for those whom we particularly represent.
There are several practical suggestions besides the one with regard to adding territory to Erivan. Surely the Government intend to set up some special régime in the district round about Smyrna. I am not speaking for the Greeks. It is not my business to do so. But we know there are a very large number of Greeks there. There are also 60,000 or 80,000 Armenians in that particular area. What is to become of these people if the Kemalists come back, proud of their victory, and if there is no adequate protection for the subject people there. However much a few enlightened Turks may desire to prevent butcheries, it is impossible for them to do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was most unjustly charged just now with recriminations and with bringing up old scores, but it is absolutely necessary, until this matter is settled, to bear in mind the massacres that have been organised by the Central Turkish Government. Therefore, when the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. A. Herbert) spoke of massacres being endemic in the East, he was really confusing the House. Of course he was not doing it designedly, but there is all the difference in the world between sporadic cases on the one hand, and, on the other side, great organised massacres by a Central Government pretending to be civilised, as a result of which hundreds of thousands, and even a million, of its own subjects are the victims. When we find some practical settlement, and some effect given to the just claims of the subject peoples in the East, no one will be more glad than we to drop all reference to the past. But until that justice is done, it is necessary to keep in mind the basis 1049 of our claim, especially as I am afraid that the Governments of Europe are only too anxious to put these things out of sight in order that they may have an excuse for taking no action, or, at least, adopting the line of least resistance in these matters.
One hon. Member in the Debate to-night said it was better not to set up an artificial zone in Cilicia. But it is not a question of artificial zones. Until the recent massacres there were 150,000 Armenians in that country, and nearly a hundred thousand of these, when the French retired and left the country, fled in terror before the advancing Turks. Now we hear talk of artificial zones. That was not the language addressed to Nubar Pasha, the leader of the Armenians, when he was risked to, and did, raise troops for the French on the definite promise of the French that they would see to it that the Armenians had a fulfilment of their national aspirations in Cilicia, where they and other Christians were the majority of the population. There are 100,000 people who have been driven out from that country and are wanting to come back now. A real practical suggestion, quite apart from all question of history and of recrimination is that they should be given some area within that country of their origin, where they can come back and settle and enjoy the necessary protection.
I hope the League of Nations will be called in, not to make a settlement, but, after the Powers have made a settlement, to supervise carrying it out. It is not the business of the League of Nations to make a settlement. That is one of the debts of the War. It is for the Great Powers to make a settlement, and when that has been effected, it is better that a body like the League of Nations should supervise and see that the Turks carry out their promises, and, if necessary, see also that the Christian Powers which have a Mahommedan minority also carry out their promises. No one could object to that double supervision. It is far better that the League of Nations should undertake this supervision rather than that it should be nobody's business, and that the Powers of Europe should be rivalling one another in their jealousies, and should be playing one against another for the favour of the Turks. I hope we shall look to practical conclusions and 1050 to practical steps in these matters, and I trust that the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, when he conies to reply, will tell us it is not true that these practical suggestions have been thrown out, as has been suggested by some of the papers, by the Conference which has just taken place in Paris.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Cecil Harmsworth)
Our discussions on foreign affairs are usually very difficult to deal with from my point of view. They are generally very discursive and travel over a wide and varied field, and very often deal with details in regard to which I cannot be expected to have exact knowledge at the tips of my fingers. I do not remember a Debate under more difficult circumstances than that of this afternoon. It opened with the speech of the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), dealing mainly with Genoa. We are to have a full dress Debate on that subject on this day next week. I understand a Resolution is to be tabled which, I suppose, will indicate the line of policy of the Government. If my right hon. Friend and the other speakers who have dealt with the question of Genoa will permit, I shall prefer to wait for the Resolution, and to hear what is to be said by the Prime Minister on Monday. It would hardly be suitable for a Minister in my junior position to butt in on a question of this magnitude when we are to have the Prime Minister addressing us over the whole area a week hence.
The other main topic of our conversation this afternoon has put me in an even more difficult position. My hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. A. Williams) have both referred to the Conference in Paris, and have referred to it as if it were still continuing. As a matter of fact, the Conference in Paris came to an end last night, and my Noble Friend the Secretary of State is now on his way to London. I myself have no late official information as to what has taken place in Paris, and, owing to the fact that I have been obliged to be on this Bench all the afternoon, I have had scarcely more than enough time to glance at the evening papers, exceedingly well informed as they usually are, to see if they are exactly well informed on the subject which we are dis- 1051 cussing this evening. My hon. Friend must not take too forward a view of any decision arrived at in Paris. I am not in a position to affirm or deny any statement one way or the other as to what has been done or has not been done, and that makes it exceedingly difficult for me to discuss anything that has taken place.
I should hope that there is something in the practical suggestion first made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) and endorsed by the hon. Member for Consett that a partial solution at all events of the very difficult question of Armenia will be found in the development of the Republic of Erivan. In that direction, possibly, some part of the problem—not of course the whole of it—may find a solution. This discussion has been animated by an intense spirit of criticism with regard to the Government and the Foreign Office. I do not think that is altogether fair. The Government, of course, is fair play for opposition from every quarter, and no Minister of experience objects to it, but when we are dealing with the alleged harsh terms of treaties, it seems to me to be universally ignored that we have never had, in regard to any one of these problems, the solution in our own hands. We have been partners with other great Powers in all these things, and so far as the Turkish Treaty is concerned, the House must be well aware, as it has been reminded by one speaker this afternoon, that at all events a considerable portion of the delay entailed in the settlement of the Turkish problem is due to the fact that the Allied Powers of Europe hoped when dealing with the immensities of the problem involved in the settlement of Turkey, that the matter would be taken in hand by the United States of America.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I am not prepared to put a date on it, but certainly that hope was very strongly entertained for very obvious reasons. Every Member of the House will agree with me that it would have been an enormous advantage in the settlement of many of these problems had it been possible for the great Republic in the West to take in hand the responsibility. I venture to 1052 think, myself, that very often, had our representatives had sole charge of the solution of some of these difficulties, they would have been solved on lines more agreeable to this House and to the people of this country. There were two specific points to which I must now refer. I was glad to observe that my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Sir M. Conway) now takes a more lenient view of the passport system than originally he did. He has come to recognise, apparently, that, after all, the passport is only what he calls a certificated photograph, and I am not aware that any country yet has found it possible to do without some kind of passport in these difficult times. Those countries that have abolished passports have substituted another system, namely, that of cards of identity, which are precisely the same thing, are just as troublesome to secure, and do not carry quite the same sanction and authority. My hon. Friend has suggested that passports ought to last more than two years, and that really represents the whole weight of the charge that he brought against the system. I think, however, that a passport lasting two years, and costing, as it does, only 7s. 6d., cannot be regarded by anyone as really a serious charge. When we come to the question of visas, that is a subject which does not now fall within my particular Department. I confess, however, that, useful as I think the passport is at present, I shall rejoice when the whole system can be swept away. I regard it, as no doubt every other Member of the House does, as one of the minor obstructions to human intercourse and the reconstruction of the world.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Cumberland (Major C. Lowther) returned to what is a very favourite topic with him, the question of the recognition of the Republic of Mexico. I would venture to disabuse his mind of one thing. I think it is rather our way in the House of Commons to suggest, first of all, that Governments are universally wicked, and, secondly, that Government Departments are entirely stupid and bureaucratic. My hon. and gallant Friend urged me to go outside the narrow Foreign Office circle in dealing with this question of Mexico. Who would suppose from that—my hon. and gallant Friend, perhaps, does not know it—that I have 1053 personally seen all these eminent persons whom he mentioned, and many others who are known to him, but whom he did not mention this afternoon? I think I have seen every principal partner in the eminent firm of Messrs. Pearson and Sons, together with other gentlemen coming to England from Mexico charged with full knowledge of that country; and I have given it out in the Foreign Office and elsewhere that I am only too glad to see anyone who comes from Mexico, and to talk with him about that country, which I believe has so magnificent a future. I would rather not talk about this any more. It is so difficult to say anything about a great country, inhabited by a proud and susceptible people—unless, indeed, one writes it out very carefully beforehand and ponders over it—that may not conceivably cause harm. My hon. and gallant Friend knows as well as any Member of the House, and the House generally knows, what are the reasons why at present our relations with Mexico are not as close and intimate as we should like them to be. May I leave it at that? I have great hopes that, as the result of the setting up of these Mixed Claims Commissions, the outstanding obstructions and difficulties will be removed, and there will be a fair prospect of coming to those better relations to which I look forward at least as ardently as my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Major LOWTHER
Without wishing to ask anything that is at all embarrassing, may I put to the hon. Gentleman this question? If it is possible to establish these Mixed Claims Commissions upon a basis satisfactory to His Majesty's Government, will that go a long way towards the renewal of friendly relations between the two countries?
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I must leave that to my hon. and gallant Friend's judgment. It certainly is a step in the right direction. If these Commissions are successful in removing those difficulties, if the just and valid claims that we have against Mexico are satisfactorily disposed of, obviously, that must constitute a step in the direction in which I desire to travel as much as does my hon. and gallant Friend. I do not think there is any specific point coming entirely within my province with which I have not dealt. I hope that, when next we discuss 1054 Foreign Office questions in this House, we shall all know exactly what has been done at Genoa, and certainly what has happened in Paris. I fervently trust, and I feel sure that there is every indication, so far as my information goes, that the Conference in Paris will be numbered among those conferences—some hon. Members may say they have been very few—which have been successful, following the great War.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The hon. Gentleman complained that a great part of this Debate had turned upon criticism of the Foreign Office, but I do not think it will be denied that the Foreign Office has incurred a certain amount of criticism in this House. It has not shone during the last three years. There has been, on nearly every question, a degree of instability which argues the absence of any fixed principle, and also, I am afraid, the absence of that up-to-date information which is so essential to a successful foreign policy. I think that, if I had to criticise the Foreign Office on one particular point, I would say that they only read the newspapers of their own colour. Our representatives in the various Capitals of Europe naturally have the Press of the countries in question translated for them and "potted" ready for remission to England; but the information sent is far too often the information that suits their views and not the information that really reflects the bulk of the opinion of the country to which they are accredited. In the same way the Foreign Office here, while it knows its "Morning Post" and its "Times," has only recently discovered the "Manchester Guardian." I think it is only within the last year that the "Manchester Guardian" has been taken in, and, as everyone knows who keeps abreast of foreign news, the "Manchester Guardian" is undoubtedly the best informed of all our daily papers on foreign affairs. In that respect the Foreign Office might find itself more efficient in dealing with the problems that come before it. Indeed, a great deal of the criticism has not been criticism of the Foreign Office so much as criticism of the pseudo Foreign Office in the Garden City across the road. That is where most of the ground for criticism has been, and particularly in connection with the muddle of the Near East.
1055 As one who, fortunately, has through out taken the right line and has now been proved right—I have always said in this House that it was essential that Constantinople should be restored to Turkey and that Smyrna should be part of the Turkish Dominions, ever since the Debate began two and a half years ago—I should naturally like to point out to the Government that, although they have finally, as I believe, in these Paris terms, come down on the right side of the fence, yet their hesitation, which has been due very largely to their being incorrectly informed, during the last two and a half years, has done more than anything else in foreign affairs to shake the credit of the British Empire, not only in the Middle East but in the whole of the Far East as well. It is very lamentable that only now, under a particular form of pressure which I for one am very sorry to see, has the Foreign Office finally adopted the just solution of the Middle East question. It must not be thought that I and my friends have been advocating the restoration of Constantinople to Turkey, or the restoration to Turkey of that part of Thrace and that part of Asia Minor which is occupied by the Ottoman Turks—it must not be supposed that we have been asking for that, as the hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Sir C. Yate) has always asked for it, because it would soothe down the Moslems of India. Our object throughout in urging the settlement which I hope has now been arrived at has been that it is an eminently just settlement, and that our prestige and reputation depends, as an hon. Member has said already, not upon our Army, not upon our Air Force, but upon our traditional sense of justice, even to the under dog. If we had only done this two years ago, how much better would our reputation have been, how much better would our traditions be for the future.